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