For the last three days, we’ve been without power here at Casa de Brokaw, thanks to hurricane force winds on Wednesday that blew with fierce, damaging force far into the night. At least one town was under a state of emergency and a travel ban was imposed in the county to allow emergency and repair vehicles to get around. By morning, more than 150,000 people were without power.
In our little corner of the world, we lost power Wednesday afternoon, and a few hours later had the luxury of a generator that ran our fridge, a space heater, and a power strip to power the internet router and charge mobile devices. I also had a propane camp stove to cook on. A bluetooth speaker and some Canine Calm CDs downloaded to my tablet (and a tranquilizer or two to combat the wind noise, work crews, generators, and chain saws) helped keep the pups mellow.
A neighbor’s pine tree dropped an enormous limb and it missed our chicken coop and garage (but unfortunately got the neighbor’s garage). I used my battery powered devices sparingly, just in case, so we were able to keep up with news, and while we were never toasty we kept the cold at bay. It was stressful at times, but it was survivable. We were able to borrow a generator to get my mom’s house survivable as well.
And just when we finally figured out how to deal with the dark, we got some more wind, a little snow, and frigid temperatures. Bitter, biting, blustery cold.
Everyone waited to see when the lights would come on.
The local power company explained the process on Thursday on local radio, starting with making the downed wires safe to work on, and then assessing the damage; assigning priority to places like hospitals, nursing homes, and first responder facilities; and then working to get 90% of people back online by Sunday night. Trucks from power companies from around the region were headed to Monroe County to help.
That seemed reasonable to me. This was a fierce windstorm that many people compared to “the ice storm”, which you’ve been around Rochester long enough know refers to the ice storm of 1991 that shut the city down for a week and caused massive widespread damage.
The comparison might have been deceiving. When the winds hit this past Wednesday, temperatures were in the 50s. There was no snow or rain or ice. If you had power, you had no idea how bad things were for those without. In 1991, everyone knew we’d suffered a massive weather event because the next day you could see the ice and snow and devastation. But Thursday morning? Just another day – unless you were without power.
We were told we’d have power by Sunday night. But this afternoon around 3 pm, the lights came on. If you consider that the storm was still happening through the night on Wednesday, that means RGE got us back online in two days.
Our area went from 150,000 plus people without power to about 40,000, with most of the rest expected to be back up and running by tomorrow.
I think that’s pretty good. But today, I learned RGE was taking a beating from New York Governor Cuomo for not responding more quickly. He’s calling for an investigation into the way RGE handled the event.
Which surprised me, and made me a little angry.
Personally, I’d like to thank RGE for getting us up and running (a day earlier than predicted) in what was truly a major emergency situation, and for doing it with the safety of not only the customers but their employees in mind. And thanks to the other companies from out of the area who responded. Is everyone up and running? Nope. My mom is expected to be offline until Monday, but she’s got a generator and all the things she needs to be comfortable. (And her house is definitely warmer than ours was!)
When the weather turned bitter, bitter cold on Friday, crews worked through the night. When people who know nothing about the way power gets from point A to point B criticized it for not happening fast enough, the crews just kept working.
Me? I spent a lot of time this week musing on needs vs. wants, on how conveniences actually disconnect us from each other, and how life was like “in the good old days”, as well switching up my routine (never a bad thing). Musings I’ll share another day.
For now, I have this thought:
It’s easy to complain when we don’t have luxuries on demand, but we forget that every other day we flip a switch and lights come on. We turn up the thermostat and get heat. We turn on a faucet and hot water runs out. We run our cell phones dead and plug them in to charge. Never underestimate the luxury of power on demand, or the people who bring it to you.
UPDATE 3/12/2017: You can read RGE’s statement in response to Gov Cuomo here.