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jca's avatar

What would be an acceptable amount of time for your power to be restored, if your power went out due to a storm (in winter weather)?

Asked by jca (27932 points ) November 10th, 2012

Here in the Northeast, we experienced Hurricane Sandy on October 29–30 (about 12 days ago). They just said on the news that there are still over 100,000 people without power.

People are getting mad, temperatures are dropping (freezing at night, 40’s during the day) and politicians are crying foul (i.e. NY Gov. Cuomo).

My power was out for 8 nights. Luckily I had a place to stay during that period. It was pretty cold and I have a child, so I was grateful to be away from the problem, although I had to take 6 days off of work (I got paid but it’s 6 less days I can use for something fun like a vacation or during the holidays). People in my area who had to use generators spent hundreds per week on fuel, and many gas stations were out of gas or had no power, which caused hours-long lines and people were discussing on FB how they had to travel over one hour to find gas.

I know people personally who still have no power. I don’t know how they deal with staying home and sleeping in the cold and taking cold showers. One person that I know lives with an elderly, bedbound father.

To the power companies’ credit, there are trucks here from Canada and the mid-west, and I see many of these trucks on the highways on my way to work, so they’re definitely around and working, I assume, to the best of their ability. On the news, they just said that in some areas they are considering having the military take over power restoration, because the power companies are not doing a good enough job.

However, 13 days without power and heat in near-freezing temperatures is unacceptable for many. What do you think is an acceptable period for a power company to restore power?

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15 Answers

janbb's avatar

I’ve just lived through this and was without power for 12 days. Some people got angry and some people were unhappy but stoic – like me. It didn’t make a difference – you got your power back when you got your power back. I think this storm was unprecedented but I also think there are bound to be more storms like this. Yes, there might have been ineptitudes and inefficiencies but ultimately, until people are willing to pay more in taxes or rates for the infrastructure to be upgraded, there will be long periods of recovery after a major storm. So – shoulda, woulda, coulda – we live in a world of what is.

hearkat's avatar

It’s tough to say what is “unacceptable” because I do feel that they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The NY/NJ area is the birthplace of electricity and the most densely populated area of the USA. The infrastructure is very outdated in many places, and upgrading would have cost the taxpayers even more in a region where we already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. People say the wires should be underground… imagine that: they’d have been flooded and the linemen would be having to dig them up, which would take even longer.

The storm was very nearly a worst-case scenario, although the fact that it sped up and the storm surge preceded the tidal surge by a couple hours did help—had they hit simultaneously, it would have been much worse, believe it or not. Then we got slammed by the Nor’easter that dumped a record-breaking amount of snow that was heavy and wet on systems just beaten down by the hurricane. Transformers were already overloaded while others were being repaired, and they were exploding left and right in some towns.

I know people still in their homes without power since Sandy hit and a flooded basement that has destroyed their furnace and hot water heater, so even when they do get power, there won’t be heat. I don’t understand why they’ve stayed there. I feel for the disabled in high-rises that couldn’t get out without elevators.

But again, I don’t think we should blame the power companies.

Coloma's avatar

In a state of emergency there is no “acceptable.” It is what it is and I think the power company people are doing their best to restore the situation. I have been without power for days, the longest a whole week once, up here in my high foothill/mountain zone. When heavy, wet snow downs lines furthur up the mountains it can take days for the workers to reach the problem area. I think these situations call for understanding and patience. Nobody is to blame, and complaining about the situation is a waste of time and “energy.” lol

filmfann's avatar

My friend Don lives in New Jersey, and went without power for 9 days, I think. Just in time for the Nor’Easter to come in.
Don is a middle manager for AT&T, and is aware of why these things take so long, but he was quite frustrated. He told me that AT&T and the Power Company ran out of replacement telephone poles. I guess thousands of them dropped, and while these companies keep replacements, they don’t keep thousands. Setting each pole takes time, and then you have to reattach all the cable and equipment.
This event has convinced me to get a portable generator when I finally make the move to my new place.

marinelife's avatar

I once went three days without power and that was a very long time,

Coloma's avatar

The last huge storm here was in Dec. of 2009 when we got slogged with several feet of wet, heavy snow overnight with about 6 feet another 20 miles above me. Power was out for a week, and I had about 14 blankets on the bed, was wearing double layers of clothes in the house and stuffed the 2 cats under the covers at night. lol
I read by kerosine lamplight and melted snow on my gas stove for coffee.
It was quite the adventure!

Actually it was a wonderful show of help from all the neighbors around here.
On the second day some of us managed to get out and explore around the neighborhood, which is acres and acres of rural properties with lots of hills. A bunch of us got stuck trying to come back up our hill when the snow iced over around 4 o’clock that afternoon.
We were careening lout of control, sliding backwards down the hill and ricocheting off the road.

My car was out of control, sliding backwards down the hill for about 50 yards and I, amazingly, slid BETWEEN 2 huge pine trees and missed hitting them. My one neighbor almost hit me but came to rest, parallel to my car. 0-o
There were about 8 of us that were stuck at the bottom of our steep road and we were shuttled home by several neighbors on their ATV’s and one fellow was passing out hot chocolate and baggies full of snacks to keep us warm while we waited our turns.
It was great fun, inspite of the hardship, everyone came together with cheerful good will and it was actually FUN to be stuck in the snow. :-)

poisonedantidote's avatar

Electricity has been around since the 1600’s, weather has been around even longer. There is just no excuse in my opinion for power to go out at all. It would be like if in 400 years time, mobile phones some times went out of coverage.

There is no reason why this can’t all be done underground or some way that makes it weather resistant.

Having said that, and having accepted how bad we are things, I am willing to grant 2 days for major disasters to get it back up and running again.

Look at that Japanese tsunami, that caused such massive disaster. Their airport was hit with a giant wall of water, burning cars, wood and all kinds of stuff, and the next morning it was back up running and operational.

Our civilization depends on electricity, letting it go out is just as bad as letting food or air run out, it should be top priority, and there should be things in place to make sure this does not happen.

If your power goes out, you should legally be allowed to batter, rape and eat whoever is responsible for it going out. If they can just let you slide back to the stone age, you should be allowed to pay them for their services cave man style.

Coloma's avatar

@poisonedantidote LOL….well, that’s one way of looking at it.

zenvelo's avatar

@poisonedantidote Since the 1600’s? I don’t know what alternate universe you live in. Electricity has been around as long as the earth, but only really harnessed for widespread power in the last 130 years.

Look at that Japanese tsunami- there are parts of Japan that are still unapproachable. And parts of New Orleans that are still empty 7 years after Katrina.

There have been snow storms that knocked out power for longer than Sandy. A colleague who lives in New Jersey had no power for three weeks after a blizzard a couple years ago. The damage from Sandy was just more widespread, which just tells me the speed of repair has been remarkable.

wundayatta's avatar

It is what it is. We can not anticipate all disasters. Will there ever be a disaster like Sandy in Philadelphia? We didn’t lose any electricity in my neighborhood until yesterday, and then it was out for only a few hours.

Should we spend five thousand dollars on a serious dual-fuel generator system that will automatically kick in if the power goes out? It’ll use both natural gas and LNG (if the natural gas supply gets cut). How much security do we need? How much disaster insurance, as I think of it?

Well, in all the time we’ve lived here, we’ve never lost electricity for more than ten hours. We always get our service restored first because there are so many of us. It’s the city. Is that a guarantee? No. Can we afford the insurance? Yes. Is it worth it? I don’t know. We’ll probably wait until the horse is stolen to close the bard door. Then again, two weeks without. It’s doable. Is it worth five thousand dollars and ugly things built in around the house?

Hard to say. Hard to say.

jerv's avatar

It depends on the circumstances, so I refuse to give a hard number.

I used to be an electrician in the Navy, so I am totally familiar with what can be done to the distribution system. Sometimes things get fucked up in interesting ways. And no, fixing said fuck-ups is not nearly as simple or quick as changing fuses. And we won’t even get into the line work.

As a former NH resident who was there for the ice storm of ‘08, and who lived a mile into the woods, ~16 miles from the nearest town of >1,000 people, I am used to being amongst the last to be restored. That ice storm took our place out for 11 days. We would wake up and the kitchen would be 33.4F, or 1.4 degrees from actually freezing. Without power, we had no heat (propane furnace with blower was out), lights (duh!), phone (the lines were out, and we had no cell reception), water (250’ well with an electric pump; no showers, no toilet!), and no way to cook since there was a run on camp stoves and their fuel.

But because it causes you hardshp, it must be somebody’s fault? Sorry, not buying that! If you cannot deal with the occasional power outage of many days duration, if you cannot handle the freezing, then don’t blame the guys working 47 hours straight trying to restore your power, just move your pampered ass to somewhere warmer! Yes, it’s frustrating, but shit happens!

Fucking pansy -asses….

ucme's avatar

Eleven minutes & thirty six seconds, i’m like He-Man…..I have the power!!!

janbb's avatar

@ucme That’s what I posted on FB this morning.

ucme's avatar

@janbb Creepy, I just posted it in answer to your “power” question.

LuckyGuy's avatar

With my set up I figure I am good for 2 weeks of generator operation. I have 2 wood burning stoves and a year’s supply of wood for heat. Months of food and water. I also have almost a one year supply of heating oil that I use very sparingly.
I figure the line crews are doing the best they can do. I am not going to argue or be frustrated with anyone.

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