Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Power To The People - Aftermath Of The Halloween Storm

I am so glad to have my electric power restored!

A couple of things:

First - Thanks so much to the wonderful utility crews from Vermont that showed up on my street to fix our power lines and put me, and my neighbors, back into the 21st century on Monday morning! These guys, and the families that they had to be away from, deserve a boat load of our appreciation!

Second - I am thankful that we were fairly well prepared - all things considered. It was good to have gas hot water and a gas stove to cook on, and plenty of food and water in the house. That made Tuesday morning to Monday morning fairly bearable. The house got down to about 50-55 degrees, which is chilly but not entirely unbearable. We made due with a roaring fireplace in the evening to take the chill off, and candle light and flashlights to guide our way at night. Lots of warm blankets made sleeping very comfortable. It was also good to have the local library to go to to recharge my cell phone and check on my email.

My husband and I have learned some lessons though on preparedness and are making some provisions for "next time". We've made a list of things we think we could have made good use of, and some we've already ordered - like a decent LED lantern from Cabela's. We'll be looking into alternate heating sources and perhaps a good solar device to charge cells phones and laptops. We've already gotten a good inverter (12 volt - 120 volt) so we could use the car to charge our cell phones if need be. Of course a good generator would have saved our food from spoiling in the freezer and refrigerator, as well as kept the furnace going. We are going to think about that one too.

We considered this "loss of power" adventure to have been a great learning experience.

It was also interesting from a human nature standpoint. While the community did show some signs of working together and helping one another... we did hear some things that were somewhat disconcerting. You would occasionally hear people's resentment for those who had power ... it wasn't very good. The "how come they have power and we don't" attitude was definitely there.

Third - In my opinion Connecticut Light and Power was NOT ready for this storm. In my estimation they had neither a plan or the boots on the ground to handle this event. The extent of damage in my neighborhood alone was unbelievable - there were power lines and trees down everywhere you looked. There was no way that this was going to be made whole by the deadlines that CL&P provided. That being said, it seemed to take a very long time for out of state crews to be called and to arrive in our state. Once they got here it seems like it took awhile for them to get things put together, in fact, I had talked to some people from a Comcast utility crew that said they couldn't get their repair work done until CL&P gave them the go ahead and they knew of many out of state electric utility crews that were sitting around waiting for work orders from CL&P as well. So it is apparent - albeit anecdotally, that CL&P dropped the ball and was unable to hit the ground running in giving out repair work orders. I think that far worse than CL&P not having boots on the ground, they seemed to lack a recovery plan for this type of damage. I don't think new legislation which fines utilities for not getting power up in a timely manner is going to be of much value. The cost of fines will merely be passed onto the consumer. Knee-jerk reaction legislation is useless.

Lastly - instead of our state and federal government spending gobs of money of an un-needed busway project - how about they take those millions and invest it in upgrading our antiquated power grid? Some of these telephone poles look like they are about to fall over in a good wind and it would seem to me that more modern and efficient ways of delivering power to the people would go a long way to preventing these kinds of massive outages, instead of frittering away tax dollars on make-work projects like the proposed New Britain-Hartford busway that barely anyone would use.

Thank you again to the utility crews that came to our state from Vermont, New Brunswick, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ontario, Georgia, and heaven knows where else. We owe them our gratitude! Thanks for putting our state back together. I truly hope CL&P pays them well... and then gets to work on a real disaster recovery plan.

Related article: Connecticut Politicians and Mega-Utility Battle Over Power Outages; Taxpayers Lose with Both


Anonymous said...

I worked for a utility for years. There is no possible way any utility can "prepare" for something on this scale. ONLY the utility workers trained to work on high voltage power lines can do this work. They can only work just so fast they are not magicians. The pay they receive is enormous, it was typical after a storm to hear one of the workers claim they bought a new car with their overtime for a week! The utilities could not possibly hire enough of these specialized workers to wait around for a disaster. When the power distribution system is impacted by a disaster the workers follow a very specific plan to restore power that first removes the dangerous problems then restores power to critical resources like hospitals. Then a grinding effort to pick up all of the remaining power outages with emphasis on those actions that can benefit the system the most and fastest. Depending on whewre you live you could be the first person with power restored or the last. It is simply NOT a case of the utility not being prepared.

Judy Aron said...

Anonymous - you may have worked for a utility company - but I can tell you that CL&P definitely did not have a restoration plan or enough boots on the ground to deal with this type of disaster. That is wholly evident. It is absurd to think that "There is no possible way any utility can "prepare" for something on this scale."... because this is what they are in business to do - provide the service and prepare for events that disrupt that service. Any good business has a disaster recovery operation. Any utility must have plans in place to deal with small as well as large scale outages. Anything less is a disservice to their customers. God forbid we had a tsunami, or an earthquake or some other disaster they must have plans in place to deal with it - do you truly believe otherwise?

Anonymous said...

There is no way a utility can prepare. Maybe if they doubled the rates they could afford to keep twice as many linemen trained and waiting around in case of a big storm. It takes years of training and dedicated people to do this work. This storm created 100 times more work then the utility could normally expect from a storm. Can a utility afford to keep 100 times as many linemen as they do now?
The simple fact is when a disaster of this scale hits it is going to take a long time to restore everyone's power. Simple as that.

Judy Aron said...

Meh - I don't agree. CL&P knew a big storm was coming - one which was uncharacteristic of the region - snow in October? They did not mobilize well and they certainly had no plan in place to deal with the destruction. Tell me why work crews from out of state had to sit in their trucks waiting for work orders? It was because CL&P was totally unprepared and disorganized.

Thank G-d we had mild weather all that week and didn't have more rain or worse.