Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lessons From the Derecho

The National Weather Service called it a derecho, which is better known as straight-line winds in a widespread area.

The result was pretty devastating when combined with severe temperatures for Ohio, including two 100+ degree days, a rarity here.  People, literally, died waiting for their electricity to come back.

The Platt family, if you've read a bit into my frustration, has gone without electricity since a bit after 5 p.m. on Friday, June 29 and, as I type this at a computer remote from my home, I'm still waiting for power 210 hours later.  My four-person household is still only 0.1% of the total without power in Newark.

Rather than dwell on being among the last AEP customers to be restored, I decided to try, again, as hard as it may be to find the upbeat side of this.

Let's look at the lessons.  As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, paraphrasing, once said, "No good crisis should go to waste."

Not Moving to Underground Service.  Some are calling for underground service.  I say this is not a lesson.  It's an unnecessary cost.  My home has underground service.  It didn't help.  The only building at the Port Authority's base campus without power after the storm is the one that had underground service.  Limited resources should go elsewhere.

Increased Technology for Grid Information.  With RFID's and wireless broadband, it seems almost antiquated to not have some basic "smart grid" technology adopted on a broader basis.  People calling in or going to a website to report power down is old fashioned by today's standards.  Even our underfunded city sewer/water services have better ways of knowing the status of their services and collecting meter data.

The money spent sending trucks and manpower to "see" if power is out and the money spent manning call centers to take the calls could be better spent upgrading the grid data reporting capabilities and devoting manpower to quicker repairs.  Skill up and tech up, AEP.  This is where the limited resources should go.

Better Preventative Tree Maintenance.  All of us could learn a lesson.  Four years ago, I had my trees pruned, including having a big one that overhung my garage taken down.  I'm glad I did.  However, I was noticing one branch that I thought to myself the very day before the storm needed a trimming.  Sure enough, it was that one that came down on my front porch.  When I see people's homes damaged or their power lost because a dead tree came down, it's awfully hard to have sympathy.   Resources should go here as well.

Less Crying Over Trees.  I'm going to get some grief at our campus when we take down the massive sycamore tree that created our only "emergency" tree problem at the Base last week.  That's unfair.  The Port Authority has planted over 100 trees in recent years and losing one that puts people and property at risk is hardly worth shedding a tear.  The politics of tree preservation is partly to blame for this crisis being made worse.  We all need to let up on AEP and let them take down what should come down among trees.

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