Electricity’s Blame Game

By Chris O’Brien

For those of you who are still without power, hang in there. I hope it returns soon, most of all for your comfort and so that we can live as we did before last week. Normalcy is important. If you need anything, particularly some spare bottled water, ice, or anything else, let me know. I’ll be happy to help.

For my other friends, I hope that you’ll find the time to help out at a shelter, distribution site or any other way you can. There is a great need out there. Even a simple check on your neighbors would be appreciated.

To my political friends- butt out. I’ll get to you later.

I hope in many ways we all see this experience as an opportunity to reconnect with each other. Some of us talk about how impersonal we get hiding behind technology, or how little we see of our neighbors. Families need good quality time together just to know one another. So… what are you sitting in the dark for?

You don’t have to be a spiritual person to wonder why we got hit by this storm. I’ve wondered about the tons of free timber that has fallen around us. And most of it is in medium sized branches perfect for throwing into a fireplace or wood stove. The early timing could tell us that indeed, we could have a long, cold, and dark winter. As much as I hope that we don’t lose power again, perhaps the wood has fallen for a later purpose. After all – God always provides. And on a little deeper level, I wonder why God us putting us through this after all.

There was a time – not long ago in human history – when there was no power. It was only harnessed in the early 1800s. Our country was founded without it. There are still areas of the world today with daily blackouts. I travelled to Albania where you had running water for only 4 hours a day. We are very fortunate. Even in this storm – with warm days balancing out the cold nights – so far we are not at risk for frozen pipes. Hypothermia is a mild concern, and carbon monoxide and fires an even higher one, but I think we’ll be ok.

On our individual levels, I hope we take heed when the Red Cross encourages us to plan for emergencies. Do you have an emergency kit an plan now? Most of us now have plenty of flashlights and batteries, shovels, roof rakes, sump pumps, and other things to last a long time. Let’s continue to stock up on canned food, can openers, bottled water and other supplies for the next time we’re out of power for a week or more – and may need to take in others to our already cramped houses. Perhaps the storm will change our pessimistic, sarcastic state into caring for our families and neighbors.

On TV, the blame game is going on. Are the power companies working fast enough? What did they know about a snowstorm before it began to snow? I mean c’mon – if you don’t believe the weatherman, why should they?! In return, the power companies blame politicians. Yet, in the local communities, people are simply helping. Sure we’re frustrated and we wish the power was on. But we can’t control anything about the situation except our attitude about it. Most of us are taking it in stride. We’re trying to protect our familes first and focusing on what we need to do to stay warm and eat. We all say – we’ll get through this. Thsoe fortunate to have power are reaching out and volunteering in some of the shelters around the state. In Wolcott, people dropped off food and blankets at a shelter.

Yesterday I heard our Governor give an honest assesment of the situation. Like him or hate him, he said he was surprised that the utilities are still predicting that they’ll have 99% of the state back online by Sunday. He seems to think a longer prediction is more accurate, but he’s leaving that prediction to their industry. He also said that he was impressed with the altruism he saw around the state. “Every visit I made today was more and more uplifting. I’m proud of Connecticut.” And I commend him for sidestepping questions about future legislation, fines, and penalties that some legislators want to use to punish the utiilties for weather beyond even their control. For the uninformed, the legislature won’t meet until February. Let me repeat- FEBRUARY! Any action won’t be in place until next October. I’m going to say this to my political friends, and I understand your ambition to just ‘do something’. Butt out!

If it were up to me, I’d pass a law saying the leaves should fall to the ground by September 30th. There. Done. No leaves, no power outages. Pass it!

What’s that? You can’t legislate nature? Hmm….

Keep in mind:

■ No matter what studies about Hurricane Irene and this storm will say, they won’t help this winter.
■ it was NATURE that did us in. We need to learn to prepare a power outage plan and survive with it on our own.
■ LESS, not more government is the answer. Apparently the utiilities have to have EVERYTHING approved- rate increases, amount they spend on tree trimming, etc… on what they do. Government only allows monopolistic utilities rather than competition. And now I’m hearing talk of deadlines, commissions, more oversight and other interfearnce. Do you really think that is going to work? Clearly you don’t understand the power of the wind, nature, or how to handle an emergency.

In fact, politicians in Connecticut are setting everyone up for failure. We’re only human, and God will take his toll on us when he wants. Storms will come. They will knock out power, destroy bridges and any inconvenience will not be able to be corrected as simple or as instantly as a Tweet or Facebook posting. Actually, given the devstation, I’m actually IMPRESSED with how quickly some areas are back up.

The things I’m not impressed with are the level we’ve depended on government in the last two storms. Where are the Boy Scouts, the church groups, and ad hoc neighborhood cook-outs? Instead, we want FEMA, the national Red Cross, and other agencies to man our shelters, be paid, and distribute materials that we didn’t have. Yes, there’s a role for them to play, but the obvious and simplist answers are right in front of us. They are free or cheap and through a crisis situation will make us stronger in the long run.

Maybe I’m alone in this thinking. But I did stop at a center where people loved the social interaction of others, played competitive games, and when the power came back on – didn’t want to go home. They appreciated the concern, help and humanness they missed for so long. Can you believe that?

Publisher’s note: This commentary originally appeared on Facebook


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