One good thing about Hurricane Sandy is that we had plenty of notice she was coming.  That meant we could stock up on munchables and charge all our battery powered devices.  We plugged in two 3G iPhone 4S devices and two 4G LTE iPads and crossed our fingers it would all work out if we hit the dark as we maxed out each device to 100% capacity.

We also filled up the bathtub with water in case we would not be able to flush our toilets manually.  If you live in a building with more than five floors and you lose power, you will not have water to flush your toilet because the electric water pump for the building will be inoperable.  You’ll have to “scoop and dump” water a gallon at a time from the bathtub to the toilet bowl to flush.

When the lights went out and we lost power, I knew the power management game was on.  I immediately did the following things for all four iOS devices:

1.  Set brightness to its lowest possible setting.  In pitch black dark where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, the lowest level bright setting is plenty brilliant enough.

2.  Turned off WiFi.

3.  Turned off Privacy | Location.

4.  Turned off Bluetooth.

5.  Closed all open Apps.

6.  Turned the devices ALL THE WAY OFF.  Not Airplane Mode.  Off.  Totally.

I knew that with four iOS devices prepped to save max power in an off state that I had a good chance of keeping some kind of connection to the wireless world beyond us until our estimated time of arrival from PSE&G — Nov. 5 — for getting power back.

When that estimate later grew to Nov. 9, I began to panic a bit because I knew each day I would lose around 15% of battery power for my 64MB devices — my iPad and my iPhone — and around 10% a day for my wife’s two 32MB devices.

We never lost our Verizon cellular service.  Sure, it was tough getting connected to a signal, and the early days of trying to reach our local cell tower used a lot of our battery power, but we were still able to connect.  In fact, the 4G connections — when they connected — were so much better than our 3G iPhone connections that I decided it was worth the extra battery drain to get connected faster, surf quicker, and then back out fast to our turned off state than to wait minute after minute on 3G for a stable connection.

We were round robbining our iOS devices until we realized the iPhones were, for all practical purposes, useless in getting a quick and usable connection.  We decided to leave our iPhones off and use them as the method of last resort after we drained our iPads.  Since Janna’s 32MB iPad was so much better at preserving battery power, we decided to exclusively use her iPad for all our email and Twitter checking and internet searching for answers until we pitted her battery.

We decided to bounce online three times a day to conserve battery power:  At 8am, 3pm and 9pm.  The 8am check was always the fastest and most robust; I guess because people were sleeping in and not hammering the cell tower for a connection.  The 9pm logon was always an exercise in slow futility, even at the 4G level.  Sometimes, we logged in more often during the day just to make sure we gave quick answers to friends and family so they wouldn’t worry.  Even though we were online with a good battery, we were still in desperate, preserve-power-at-all-costs, mode.

When power was restored to us three days later, we immediately raced to plug in all our iOS devices.  My 3G iPhone in totally OFF mode was at 91% battery, my 4G iPad had drained down to 72% even though I’d only used it in ON mode for 11 minutes.  Janna’s 3G iPhone in totally OFF mode was still at 100% battery and her 4G iPad, that we used for a total of, perhaps, 30 minutes total, was at an incredible 88% battery power.

When I originally learned we might have to stretch our iOS battery power to 10 days, I was concerned, because the math wasn’t going to work out to keep us online with our superfast 4G iPads.  In the end, it all worked out just fine, and we feel relieved we were able to connect to the internet pretty much at will.

We also realized we never charged our iOS devices until they’d fallen below the 20% low water mark. If Hurricane Sandy — or some other power-choking demon — had surprised us, and we hadn’t been able to pre-charge to 100% before losing power, we definitely would have been deep in the darkness with no way out.

When the power returned three days later, I plugged in my 4G iPad and used its hotspot feature to give my main computer internet access since Comcast Voice/Data/TV were not working.  I was getting a respectable 3G connection in the basement: 1MB down and .300MB up. Even in 3G mode, a 4G laptop is better than any 3G iPhone.

I had to be careful how much I used my iPad Hotspot because I no longer have unlimited data on Verizon, but it all worked out in the end. I would turn my hotspot on and off and only do quick internet runs without staying idly connected to the internet. The next morning, Comcast restored all our Triple Play services, and we were basically back to where we started those five days ago.

10 Comments

    1. Yes, these sorts of catastrophic weather events will likely start happening every year now. We’ve ruined our environment and now we start to pay with our lives and our petty conveniences.

      We had a wind-up spring radio and flashlight we bought when we first moved to Jersey City — the lights went out here often the first couple of years — only to find that neither one of them now worked. The plastic gears and “chain” that powered them had somehow stretched or shifted just enough to not allow the things to properly wind up for a charge.

        1. Right! We hadn’t used the wind up devices for probably six years. Never tested them. I knew where they were in an emergency — I just never bothered to check on them every year to make sure they were still in working condition.