Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Preparing for the worst

Hope by now everyone has their power back on and recovered from last Thursday’s storm as our dear friends at the National Weather Service predict more “scattered strong to severe thunderstorms” later in the week for our entertainment pleasure.

First of all, thanks to the power crews who worked around the clock to turn the lights on. They do not make the decisions about where the lines go, they just fix things and deal with impatient customers. Thanks to the deputies, fire-rescue folk and everyone else who pitched in.

Power lines near big trees are a recipe for disaster

Losing power gets your attention. We take the “juice” that runs the plethora of gadgets that ease our existence for granted, until it’s gone. We fume when the power goes out and want ours restored immediately if not sooner.

Intellectually, we understand that it’s dangerous for power crews to climb poles and play with live wires during the height of a storm, but once it’s over, we want to know why it takes so long to fix the problem.

Getting reliable information about the situation was also troublesome. Richmond TV stations blathered on about downloading their apps so you could find out what’s going on, yet they declined to report on outages in Goochland.

Dominion Power was inundated by people seeking repair updates or trying to report a problem. The “new and improved” outage map on the Dominion website is too complicated to decipher on the screen of a smart phone. You can sign up to receive text alerts at

This storm was a mess. So was Hurricane Isabel and the Derecho of 2012. Once again, it seemed like the power company was overwhelmed and unprepared.

We wonder, at times like this, why more power lines are not buried. Far too many residential areas seem to have large trees growing in and around power lines. It seems like, in the long run, it would be more cost effective for the power company to bury the lines and avoid the cost of bringing in extra repair crews while losing revenue from customers.

This is not a new question. There is no simple answer.

Dominion contends that it is doing more aggressive tree trimming. Look along any road in Goochland. The trimming seems to assume that the wind will blow in a certain direction, felling trees away from the power lines. Or, it cuts a tunnel around power lines. The storms we’ve been getting lately are of the “swirly” for lack of a more precise meteorological term, so the trees could fall in any direction.

Moving power lines underground is an expensive proposition. Supposedly, when underground lines fail, trouble spots are harder to locate and fix than those on pole-mounted lines. They’re also harder to move given rights-of-way in established areas, and soil conditions.

New subdivisions usually have underground power lines. However, they are connected to pole mounted lines and transformers that are still subject to the weather.

The real puzzler is why the power lines along Broad Street Road in Short Pump, which was rebuilt from the ground up, are still on poles. Since work started on the Wegman’s/ Cabela’s project, the sidewalk was dug up and replaced several times to accommodate what looked like water and sewer lines, yet the power poles remain? You’d think that would present a perfect—and cost effective—opportunity to bury the lines.

New construction seems like an opportunity to bury power lines

Maybe the continued outcry will have some impact on the decision makers; probably not.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the weather report; make sure you have gas for the generator; and store some water, just in case.

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