Life in the dark

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Life at home during the blackout

The power has been off at my house and half the block – about 15 other houses – for more than 30 hours. The first wind storm – the brief one Wednesday afternoon – took down a large branch in a backyard somewhere down the block. The branch took down the high-power feeder line, which apparently created a large fault that blew out a transformer at the top of a pole in the next-door neighbor’s backyard.

Life without power takes on a different dimension now that I work in a home office. It meant a day of outlet seeking – looking for places to recharge batteries and plug in equipment to make it through the must-do tasks of the day. I feel like an Oxycontin addict looking for the next doctor I can sucker into writing a prescription.

All of the less-than-vital activity is on indefinite hold; things like non-client e-mails, Observer editing and Facebook promotion, communication with parents of the  little league baseball team, blogging (and yet here I am)…

The irony is that I’m working with a client right now whose business includes helping power companies reduce the length and frequency of power outages. As a result, I now know that utilities everywhere are being encouraged by the federal government and state Public Utilities Commissions to install technology that would have made it possible for FirstEnergy to know the second the power went out – and more important, to identify the precise piece of equipment that failed.

Of course, a simple telephone could have been enough; a neighbor called in the outage within the first 30 minutes – identifying the address and exact location of the failed transformer.

But that information didn’t make it to the field crew that showed up several hours later and spent most of the evening walking around the block looking for the line fault.

They eventually found it, called in the tree guys to clear up the debris and then put an order in for a line truck to fix the transformer. By that time, though, the overnight windstorm was in high gear, causing outages all over the region and putting this particular outage at a low priority.

And so we wait. Food spoils, money doesn’t get earned and, when I find an outlet, I feel like I just scored the fix that will keep me going for the next 8 hours.



  1. […] The outage lasted 36 hours; I wrote about it on April 28. It required at least five separate work crews (and two visits by the fire department) to identify one of the more common line faults that a utility can have (even as helpful neighbors directed each crew to the precise location of the problem). It demonstrated FirstEnergy’s poor communication and an absence of advanced technologies that other utilities use. […]

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