We lost electrical power in my neighborhood the other evening. The lights were off for about 40 seconds before power was restored.
I walked through my house resetting clocks and rending my garments, wailing, “Why me, Lord? Why me?”
Meanwhile, in the southeast and the Caribbean thousands of homes and businesses have been without electricity for days. Some may not have power restored until next week.
There are thousands of men and women working to restore electricity the region. It is physically demanding and dangerous work. Water and electricity don’t mix. The logistical challenges are significant. Nobody has a few thousand utility poles lying around the equipment yard. Miles of ACSR conductor isn’t kept in the warehouse on spools like so much thread. Replacement transformers, insulators, relays, substation equipment, hardware will be needed.
How do I know this? Why does it matter to me?
My father worked in rural electrification. He started out as a yard****, then he was on a line crew as a ground man, then an apprentice lineman, a journeyman, a line superintendent and finally a manager of a rural cooperative. Electricity and its transmission were his business.
I learned at an early age that a power outage was serious business that required my father’s full attention. It was commonplace for me to wake up in the morning and my mother would tell me, “Daddy is out on a trouble call.” That was in northern Montana. I’d look out the window and see the gray skies and blowing snow and wonder what Dad was doing and if he was cold.
Later, in Arizona, when he was a line superintendent, he didn’t go on trouble calls; instead, he directed the responses from the family room of our home. He had a small portable radio about the size of a .30-calibre ammo box with a long antenna that he placed on the floor beside an upholstered chair. His call sign was “Unit One.”
He would sit with the microphone resting on his lap, staring off into the distance and listening to the crew working on the problem. Like most rural cooperatives, the service area was a long way from the yard, so there were long intervals of silence until the crew located the outage and determined the cause.
These trouble calls might come at anytime, but usually a storm would knock down a power line or a lightning strike had destroyed a transformer. It didn’t matter if the outage affected only a single-wide trailer on a remote patch of desert, or it had shut down an entire mine operation, the effort was the same — the crew worked until the power was restored.
With the radio squawking between exchanges, and the conversation punctuated with “10-4’s,” Dad and the crew talked over the problem until they had the solution and they had the equipment and materiel necessary to restore the power.
That’s what is happening now in the southeast. Nobody is stopping until power is restored.