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Sat Nov 10, 2012, 04:37 PM

Our disgraceful inability to restore power in times of emergency.

It happens time and time again. After a natural disaster, power restoration is painfully slow.

To be sure, and to be clear, there are cases where slow restoration, while awful to live through, is understandable. Also to be sure and to be clear, the power crews that venture out, almost always even before the disastrous event is over, are part of the solution, not the cause of any problems or delays.

The blame, I think, lies squarely on those who fail to modernize the systems and who fail to properly maintain even an antiquated system. A BIG part of the blame is sucking out short term profits before investing in long term improvements.

For every tree that falls on a power line and takes a neighborhood out of service there are years of the power company deferring the burying of critical feeder lines in favor of showing short term profits. There is the collateral blame on public service commissions who fail to regulate the power companies such that they are forced to invest in, and constantly improve, their infrastructure. Lastly, if anyone without power is complaining louder than they rail against "Big Government" and government regulation, they are invited to go the back of the restoration line.

All that's just about electric power. How many broken water mains and sewers do we hear about? How many cities have in-service water mains that are a hundred, a hundred and fifty, even more years old?

How easy it is to defer maintenance. It is REAL easy. No one notices.

Until they do.

I hope the people in New Jersey and on Long Island get their power back yesterday.

Now . . . . who is next?




33 replies, 1865 views

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Arrow 33 replies Author Time Post
Reply Our disgraceful inability to restore power in times of emergency. (Original post)
Stinky The Clown Nov 2012 OP
kelliekat44 Nov 2012 #1
PoliticAverse Nov 2012 #3
freshwest Nov 2012 #18
kelliekat44 Nov 2012 #27
freshwest Nov 2012 #31
dipsydoodle Nov 2012 #4
freshwest Nov 2012 #19
kelliekat44 Nov 2012 #28
freshwest Nov 2012 #30
freshwest Nov 2012 #2
maxrandb Nov 2012 #5
cbayer Nov 2012 #6
Ship of Fools Nov 2012 #14
cbayer Nov 2012 #15
Ship of Fools Nov 2012 #16
freshwest Nov 2012 #20
brentspeak Nov 2012 #32
hollysmom Nov 2012 #7
Lars39 Nov 2012 #8
Horse with no Name Nov 2012 #9
Honeycombe8 Nov 2012 #23
Sherman A1 Nov 2012 #10
appleannie1 Nov 2012 #11
FarCenter Nov 2012 #12
jp11 Nov 2012 #17
freshwest Nov 2012 #21
jpak Nov 2012 #13
freshwest Nov 2012 #22
Honeycombe8 Nov 2012 #24
TheMightyFavog Nov 2012 #25
Odin2005 Nov 2012 #26
Egalitarian Thug Nov 2012 #33
hobbit709 Nov 2012 #29

Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 04:40 PM

1. Uh, what do you mean by "our inability"? Private sector power companies are responsible for not

being prepared and for not upgrading their infrastructure and delivery grids etc. They have only had 30 or more years to do it. Profit over service. They are a monopoly and we are captive customers. Wish I had the financial resources to research and develop personal, safe power generators.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #1)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 04:50 PM

3. Long Island is served by LIPA, a government owned/operated utility...

http://www.lipower.org/company/

LIPA is...
A non-profit municipal electric provider, owns the retail electric Transmission and Distribution System on Long Island and provides electric service to more than 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. LIPA is the 2nd largest municipal electric utility in the nation in terms of electric revenues, 3rd largest in terms of customers served and the 7th largest in terms of electricity delivered.

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #3)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:11 PM

18. Thanks for the information.

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Response to freshwest (Reply #18)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 07:15 AM

27. Still the private sector rules

...

PSEG will be a new partner operating the transmission and distribution system with LIPA under a new, improved business model. The creation of a joint operating committee will allow for a more collaborative process which will enhance the level of accountability, transparency and control between LIPA and PSEG.

PSEG has formed a Long Island based company that will focus exclusively on services to LIPA. PSEG, with subcontractor Lockheed Martinís services, will create a team with complex business transition experience to ensure a seamless transition of services in 2014.
PSEG is one of the most highly regarded utility companies according to J.D. Power & Associates Ė with high rankings for reliability and customer service
PSEG will have a wholly-owned business unit dedicated solely to LIPA and its customers and it will be a consistent presence in our community, as all of this unitís employees will work here on Long Island.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #27)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 12:26 PM

31. Such language, is it from a sales brochure? I am biased toward public, since mine is.

I've had better rates and service through them and through co-ops. And been royally screwed by non-interstate regulated utilities. So if they are going to regulated and have some transparency, that's may be a plus, but it argues against profit.

The company that is owned by shareholders and answers to them, neither values its product unless volume goes down (and electric doesn't), its workers or the people paying the rates. Their loyalty is solely to the shareholders, owners or CEOs, and by force of that, must squeeze every dime out of every operation, whether it work well for the workers or the consumers.

In a publicly owned system, the consumers are shareholders and must be consulted, not Wall St. types who are not affected literally by these decisions
and unaccountable amounts of state funds which all must pay, to go into private hands. This leads to more political pressure to deny services to all impartiallly and too much political influence. The corporation should be allowed no more impact on decisions made than a voter, but they get it by means of owning. It can start well and end badly:

The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini defined fascism as the merger of the State and the Corporation. It is that social system in which the interests of the State and the corporations merge together This is the quintessential characteristic of a fascist state. Contrary to popular belief the defining characteristic of a fascist state is not a charismatic leader.


http://www.sikharchives.com/?p=2027

Just one of several online definitions, but that one was quick and clear. It really is popular for those who are making money off of it, and they vote accordingly. Military contractors probably voted heavily for Romney, because it was good for their business, not the people or anything moral. How a person makes their livelihoods. Personally, I always preferred working in the private sector, because it paid better. I have never had a public position, but learned the hard way the insertion of the profit motive in situations that government is created to engage and resolve, an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner, can be a corrupting and deadly thing. Just my experience.

If you are working in the private business model so that it will profit you and hope to make money, we may never agree. But good posts, anyway.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #1)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 04:57 PM

4. Would be no different if it nationalised

Power companies are staffed to meet average demand. Their engineers are trained to such a degree they're hardly likely to able to spirit staff up out of nowhere as might do MacDonalds.

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Response to dipsydoodle (Reply #4)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:21 PM

19. It seems the problem is less a lack of engineers as it is linemen (workers). And hurricanes...

Can make a fool of the best planners. I lived and worked through one that destroyed every transformer pot that served four households, mile after mile. Old plant was part of the problem; the strengthn and longevity of the wind, the other part.

In the Pacific northwest, areas able to put power underground are still doing it. In areas that are still changing because of development or rural areas, the lines are aerial and subject to all that entails. The closer into cities with power almost all underground, running through conduit and through manholes, are the last to suffer power loss and the first to get it back.

They are builty for flooding, unaffected by winds. The power lines from the generating plants are another thing entirely, and will be aerial and subject to damage.

Just my experience, and I agree with you, nationalizing won't stop those factors from affecting restoration of storm damage. It just takes time to restore it.

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Response to freshwest (Reply #19)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 07:21 AM

28. All good points. But it is funny how so many can make reasonable explanations when entities other

than government fall short. But government is always bad and to blame when stuff happens that is really beyond its control.

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Response to kelliekat44 (Reply #28)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 12:03 PM

30. I think some people are born under a complaining star, or something. Nothing can ever satisfy.

The old attitude of gratitude never comes from them, only 'more, more, more' and why didn't YOU *points one finger away from self* do MORE?

Nature can overcome anything people can create and if they don't think so, a quick study of history, weather and geology is in order. I think some people have had it so good for so long, they think nothing will ever change.

I don't think this is the attitude of the people in the flooded areas, they are busy working to stay warm and do all they can, others just love to bring others down to a specific level of misery they carry around within themselves.

Not speaking of anyone or group specifically, just a general observation. I avoid such people in real life as they are not much help when I need some. Online, they just serve the purpose of making everyone feel helpless and hopeless.

Thanks for a thoughful comment.


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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 04:46 PM

2. Having worked utility reconstruction, we knew the company waited for disasters to charge off costs

of capital improvement instead of putting the money in over the years, to increase profits in all years.

With community owned utilities, they are not squeezing out profit and so they do the work routinely, upgrading to keep it going. Their goal is service, not money.

They encourge conservation and diversification of green sources and reward homeowners who install energy efficient appliance with rebates, hauling old appliances for free, and give back money to those with solar panels to send electricity back to the grid.

This is the failure of capitalism compared to socialism or in other terms, community ownership, where profit for those not paying for the system or service is not the main purpose. Some things should not be left to the private sector, because they are essentials of life, not optional products that can be avoided.


JMHO.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:00 PM

5. Sounds like a workforce to bury powerlines

would be a good idea.

How about all of those veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Response to maxrandb (Reply #5)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:02 PM

6. What a great idea. We are so far behind the curve in this area and

it would prevent so many problems.

Added bonus, no more unsightly power poles and lines.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #6)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:10 PM

14. Per my husband: Underground cables means pad mounted transformers

It would do no good at all to have an underground system in a flood. UG cables mean pad mounted transformers. If a transformer is under water in a flood, it is ruined and will have to be replaced. I know as a lineman as I have replaced many.. also putting in UG system cost hundreds of dollars a foot, as opposed to tens of dollars per foot for overhead. As far as returning vets go, I went through a 4-year apprenticeship to become a journeyman lineman. So yes, hire vets, but it is not going to happen overnight. One other thing-- there is about to be a huge exodus of experienced linemen due to retirement, since a large percentage of linemen are over 50.

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Response to Ship of Fools (Reply #14)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:16 PM

15. I wasn't aware of that. I thought New Orleans had a long range plan to do this,

but perhaps I am wrong. Could not the pads be elevated?

I know it's more expensive, but many places have done it for a reason.

I openly admit that my knowledge in this area is very limited, but having lived for a long time in an area with frequent loss of power (New Orleans) very often due to transformers blowing out or tree limbs taking out lines in thunderstorms, it seems there must be better solutions.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #15)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:39 PM

16. Almost all UG systems are fed by overhead lines

I can't speak to all places, but for those I know, that's how it works. It usually comes from a substation via overhead (backbone) lines and breaks off to feed subdivisions via underground cables. if the overhead lines go down, the UG goes out too. It's possible to run a cable up a pole and feed a transformer, but that's not something that any company would do. UG lines are a fine option, as long as the water does not get into the transformers. Retrofitting an overhead distribution system to an UG system is just not a financially feasible option. Maybe Mitt could pay for it, but not the average customer.

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Response to Ship of Fools (Reply #14)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:26 PM

20. Yes, the pad transformers do flood. That form of UG only prevents outage to the serivce address.

Aerial power lines will always be a factor, dependent on the planning or zoning of an area. Even manhole type UG leads can be cut off from substations or aerial leads. And areas near the coast are always at risk. Part of the price of living there, the beauty of the area and chance of storm. Like earthquake zones, we choose to live in them as they are often great places.

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Response to Ship of Fools (Reply #14)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 12:34 PM

32. Pad mounted transformers can be designed as submersible transformers

Making them resistant to the effects of flooding.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:03 PM

7. Power restoration is not always that easy

At the beach,the houses and land is gone - no power there and they said with the propane gas tanks still floating around and the area continues to flood,they feel safer to not have power there. There are neighborhoods where the transformers were inundated with salt water, that takes time and equipment to repair.

In land. In my town, I had power back in 2 hours, but there are still people in this urban area without power . Most are individual houses that had their lines ripped out of the house with falling trees. There are many old trees in this town. Neighbors are helping, they are not happy, but still will survive. The power company is restoring line service to multiple houses first. I understand that. The mayor keeps tweeting me about how upset he is and that he is harassing the power company.I don't think that does any good.

With all the power that has been lost and the unprecedented number of issues, I can understand. I keep offering to take my brother in, but he is happy to camp out at his own home. says he is spending time with his kids now that they don't have TV or Video games. the outside is cold enough for food and he has a gas stove, they have gas hot water and it is working and they have running water. They charge their stuff at neighbors, have internet access with neighbors, battery operated lanterns, and it is pretty quiet.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:03 PM

8. There's also a shortage of trained workers...they're retiring and there's not enough to replace them

and keep up with the higher yearly demand for lineman. That particular work field is getting the double whammy.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:04 PM

9. Our antiquated grid in our area ofTexas has been failing more and more frequently

with small storms. I shudder to think what will happen the next time we have a major weather event.

We have some of the highest electricity rates in the country (thanks to GWB deregulating the electricity companies while he was Governor) and the companies consistently make record profits but very little (if any) is reinvested.

The perfect model of what happens in privatization.

But if we have a grid failure, our rates will be raised to reflect that--I am sure of that.

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Response to Horse with no Name (Reply #9)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:54 PM

23. +1. Power used to go out at my house every month for a couple of hours. It's better now. Still goes

out, though, more than it ought to, esp during storms.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:40 PM

10. Several years ago we had a severe wind storm in St. Louis

my area was out for 4 days. It seems that Ameren UE had cut back on tree trimming for the several years prior to this event as a cost saving move. The CEO's salary & bonus were doing just fine, but some how the ungrateful public took exception to being in the dark all that time.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 06:19 PM

11. I live in a rural area with a co-op service. No power means no water since we have wells in this

area. When we first moved here 40 years ago, we routinely had outages 4 or 5 times a year. The longest we have gone without power after an ice storm was 9 days. Three days without power is not uncommon after a storm of some kind. But each year they are getting to be less often because they have started to trim trees near the power lines and the last two years have been replacing old lines with new ones. That is what they have been spending our yearly dividend checks on and the customers do not mind in the least. All the people in this area have lanterns, candles and flashlights just for power outages. If even thunderstorms are predicted they fill their tubs with flushing and washing water and water bottles with drinking water and fill ziplock bags with water and place them in all the empty places in their freezers. We always have at least one bag of ice in the freezer at all times to put in a Coleman cooler for perishables. I keep a gas grill on my porch that has a roof year round for cooking during power failures. I really feel for the people of New York because they are not used to going without power and really do not know what to do in this kind of situation and Sandy was one hell of a way to learn.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:07 PM

12. The power companies could prevent a lot of outages by trimming trees properly

Branches or trees that can fall on power lines should be cut.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #12)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:49 PM

17. Or the county/city/state could do it.

I don't know who has the responsibility, the power companies I imagine have to take care of their equipment but I don't see how they can be totally on the hook for all the trees that people plant or exist here and there that are never touched on private land that grow all up and into their power lines.

Then there are the phone company, cable, etc lines that travel on many of the same poles.

There are far too many trees that are waiting to fall on roads, power lines, homes, etc that no one is doing anything about. I'm talking not just tall, or old or even dead trees, there are lots of them, but also of trees that have literally grown into wires branches getting twisted in them, even some where the bark has fused to them.

I'm sure it comes down to whoever is responsible not wanting to be proactive and spend money they don't 'need' to until they 'need' to as in until there is a problem they can't ignore like a tree that falls on some emt/fireman/police officer or knocks out power.

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Response to jp11 (Reply #17)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:32 PM

21. The lines are in an easement. The utility companies have the right to maintain the lines.

It's their job, and often they don't ask the homeowner at all. This makes for bad feelings at times. Some crews trim in a tree friendly manner and others just hack and make unsightly and unhealthy cuts. But no one wants to do without utilities. So they live with it.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:09 PM

13. Obama done it!!!!!1111

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Response to jpak (Reply #13)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:34 PM

22. Well, of course!! And life sucks, you suffer and then you die. Where are my worms for dinner?

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 08:55 PM

24. Heard on NPR that Gov. Cuomo is spittin mad at some power company...

I forget the name of it. He'd been asking to see its emergency plans for a year, but they hadn't coughed them up. Cuomo says the company did not have a current emergency plan, so it couldn't handle this extreme emergency.

Con-Ed, is it? I forget.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 09:37 PM

25. Maybe our Governmnet needs to set up an organization like the German THW...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technisches_Hilfswerk


Basically, they are an all-volunteer civil defense task force tasked with repairing infrastructure during and after a disaster. Not only do they do work within Germany, they also go abroad. THW had a presence in New Orleans after Katrina, the Tsunami in Japan last year, and the 2004 Tsunami.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2012, 09:52 PM

26. People have become so spoiled that instant service is seen as a right.

Fixing shit takes time, dammit.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #26)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 01:03 PM

33. We're not spoiled, you are just too young to remember when things were owned by communities

 

instead of corporations. There were always exceptions on either end of the spectrum (and roads have always been a black hole of corruption everywhere in America), but when the community owns and operates essential services they work much better.

Profit seeking motivates owners to do just barely enough to get by most of the time.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 07:23 AM

29. And burying power lines is not a good move when subject to salt water flooding.

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