You may wonder why massive power outages occur resulting from storms along the East Coast when power companies and governments have deep experience with storms. That is a good question. Is it that engineers cannot plan and engineer power systems to keep the lights on in the nation’s center for government, for instance?
A central problem is that power lines are on poles and above ground. Leafy trees and tree limbs too close to power lines and wind may knock debris into the lines, snapping them and knocking out power.
The apparent solution is for power companies to bury unsightly and fragile power lines.
All of the power companies along the affected area have pre-planned and have auxiliary crews ready to arrive as soon as the storm has passed. That could result in power being out of several days while the crews put the lines back up and remove fallen trees.
This year there is a notable change in advice from emergency centers and power companies. They say to use battery power and not candles. Candles are too dangerous.
Now, bringing the power cables down to Earth seems like a good idea, however, power cables may go too deep. In New York City, Manhattan is an island floating atop a fragile infrastructure of tunnels and basements that are actually below the level of the Hudson River. A sudden downpour of the likes of hurricanes and large storms can flood and overwhelm the pumps that keep them under control.
Engineering the optimal solutions takes investment, of course, and governments need to do that and to apply more advanced technology to keep the power on even under anticipated emergency conditions. At this point in history, the excuses are thin for putting millions of people out of business for days.
“Data from various studies lead to cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S.economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually. Data also suggest the trend of outages from weather-related events is increasing.”
Congressional Research Service
“The United States has the highest average annual outage time per customer, and the third-highest average annual number of supply outages per customer.”
Americans have a right to beef about power loss. Compared with leading developed countries, our power companies are lousy.
President Obama has pushed for investment to improve the national grid and to modernize it. The need for that investment will be born out as the lights go out again. I had better file this report before that happens.
Status Sunday: http://youtu.be/Pxt-rIMy7bk