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Power line issue on Mt. Lolo December 12-13 affects VE7RLO repeater

On the weekend of December 12-13 there was a power line issue that impacted the VE7RLO repeater.  The power issues started at about 21:00 PST on Saturday, with the power returning to normal around 15:30 PST on Sunday afternoon.  We aren't sure what it was, but our best guess is that during the big wind storm a tree came down on one of the lines going up to Lolo.  From reviewing the logs on the UPS, Lee VE7FET, was able to determine that both the voltage and frequency of the power going to the Lolo site was low, dropping as low as 35VAC at one point!  The unusual part is that whatever it was it didn't blow the fuses on the line and cut the power completely, so we speculate that it may have been a branch or small tree across one of the phases?

Regardless, the UPS did its job and when the power quality got too low it switched over to battery, running for almost 10 hours before shutting down to conserve the battery bank.  Some of you may have noticed that on Sunday morning the repeater was working, albeit sounding very weak and only identifying in CW.  Dave VE7LTW and Myles VE7FSR were able to hold a brief QSO on the repeater so something was working up there, even though neither Lee nor Myles could remotely access any of the IP equipment on Lolo that morning.

Once the power was back on Sunday evening, Lee and Myles were able to go through the logs on the UPS, APRS Raspberry Pi, Nagios, etc. and figure out that even though the APC UPS shut down all the equipment attached to it (which included the Raspberry Pi running the Allstarlink repeater and voting software), only the Motorola Quantar repeater kept working.  How could this be?  The Motorola Quantar repeater and the Glenayre 100W PA are not connected to the UPS, but get their AC power directly from the wall outlet (non-UPS power).  We believe that the built-in AC-DC power supply in the Quantar is so good that it was able to continue to operate on as low as 35 VAC!  Amazing!  The Glenayre AC-DC power supply for the 100W PA was unable to work with such a low AC voltage (likely because it converts the AC to 28 VDC), and was inoperable.  The Motorola Quantar and RTCM (Radio Thin Client Module, which is powered by the Quantar's internal power supply) were able to operate in "emergency" mode with only the Quantar exciter transmitting at 5W (which explains the CW ID and low output signal from the repeater).

Myles VE7FSR made a trip up on Monday December 14 to check on the site, and didn't see any poles or lines down, but did notice a lot of broken branches scattered on top of the snow midway up the mountain.  He was able to drive to the 13km mark and walked (uphill, both ways, in the snow) the rest of the way on snowshoes.  Everything looked good inside the building, although there was a lot of hoar frost on everything outside.  After checking all the VE7RLO equipment to make sure everything was working OK, Myles gently knocked the frost off the IP cameras and headed back down the mountain.  When he got back to his Jeep he was surprised to see that a plowing company had been trying to clear the Lolo road and had gotten stopped just past the 12km marker.  It looks like Nav Canada was having issues with their generator over the weekend and had hired the plowing company to clear the road to the top.  The plowing company returned the next day with a huge front end loader and was able to clear a path to the top for the generator technicians.

The cleared road didn't last long though, and on Friday December 18 Myles attempted to get up to the site by Jeep and was met with a huge snow drift next to the RCMP building where he got stuck for about an hour.  With a lot of digging and some winching he made it out of the drift.  There were several more big drifts between the gate and the TELUS building, but because it was flat it allowed him to get up enough speed to blast through them.  It remained possible to reach the top by vehicle for another two days and then the mountain was walloped with a big snow storm and strong winds and the road has once again drifted in (being impassible other than on foot or by snow machine).