Thursday, July 5, 2012

Off the Grid

Electricity pylon - power outage
Electricity pylon - power outage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Anybody that lives in the DC area knows all too well about the storm that blew through here last Friday night around 11pm.  They said the storm was something called a derecho, which is Spanish for straight line.  The storm went through quickly but it packed a big punch bringing winds of around 70 mph.  Consequently, there were several power outages in the area, my home being among them.

Our power went out as the storm rushed through.  Saturday morning, I awoke around 6am and decided to take a drive to see how things were looking and to see if any BGE trucks were at the substation around the corner working to restore our power.  My first stop was to see if the nearby Wawa was open so that I could get a cup of coffee.  It was open, but packed, so coffee was off of the table.

After driving around my neighborhood, assessing the damage, and not seeing any utility trucks in the error, I ascertained that this could be a prolonged outage.  I began calling and texting family to see if they had made it through the fire.  My parents had power.  My sister, who usually loses power still had her power.  With temperatures expected to be near 100 in the immediate future, I was looking for a place where we could crash until power was restored.

My parents live in a rather small condominium with one bedroom.  I pretty much knew that their place was out of the question.  My sister immediately offered to allow us to head down to her place.  They didn't have a lot of space, but there was at least a place to crash and do some laundry.  My in-laws had lost their power, but they also had a generator to provide air conditioning and the basics, and more importantly, they had a couple spare guest rooms.

My in-laws did not have their washer and dryer hooked up to the generator.  Not knowing how long power would be out, we decided to head to my sister's house to do a couple loads of laundry and have a bit of lunch.  Her in-laws had also lost power and it was looking like they were going to crash there, so after doing the laundry and having a sandwich, we packed up the car and headed to my in-laws.  We were there until this morning.

Our power came on sometime yesterday afternoon, so we spent nearly 5 days without power.  Since the power came back so late yesterday, we spent one more night at the in-laws because the house needed to cool down plus we had no food in the house.  My power company, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), has 1.2 million customers.  Out of those, over 700,000 suffered some sort of outage.  As of now, they still show over 40,000 people still without power. 

 In addition to my family crashing at my in-laws, my wife's brother, sister, and nephew all crashed there part of the time. Now, I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a massive undertaking for BGE to restore power to all of their customers.  For that reason, and in part because we at least had a cool place to crash, I tried to be patient in waiting for our power to be restored.  I think we all did a half way decent job of coexisting with one another, but around Tuesday we all started to lose a bit of patience.

For me, it started when I called the outage line on Monday morning.  I was told at that time that our power was expected to be back by 8:30 pm that night.  Later in the day, I checked again, and I was told it would be as late as Thursday around noon.  My frustration grew as it became increasingly difficult to get any information from BGE.  If you called them on the phone, you could only reach the automated line to report or check on an outage.

Thankfully, I am well versed in social media and I had my smart phone and my 3G tablet with me.  I was able to keep those charged thanks to my in-laws generator.  So I started tweeting my questions to @MyBGE on twitter.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get any information from them.  I turned to BGE's Facebook page and posted questions there.  Still no responses from them.

Again, I realize that they had a lot in front of them in trying to restore power to everyone.  It was a massive undertaking.  I also realize that they had a lot of other people trying to get answers through social media.  My beef is that getting info from them was like the proverbial pulling teeth.  I had a fairly generic question that I was eventually able to get an answer to by tweeting it at 6am rather than around noon.  I would have liked the opportunity to speak to a person, even if it had meant holding for a while.

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  1. one reason that it takes so long to restore power and every single power company is guiltly of this trimming the staff down to the bare bones,so much so that they donot have the manpower to resalve isses as quickly as they used to. CEI or First Energy as it is now know as has been reducing employees for the past 20 years and are spread out way to thin.and when a major storm wipes out power it tals a lot of prople to restore the power that other power companies send people from different parts of the country it help restore power and if a porwe company is shorthanded and the are in need of help well,guess it takes longer everywhere to restor the power that back in the 60's say did not take as long.

  2. So Glad to hear your 'back on Broadway' err back on BGE. Will you be skipping Thanksgiving with the relatives? Hope all is restored.

    How come the press didn't blame Obamanation for the Storm and Outages? Jus wonderin'...

    PLU from SSF

    1. I think they are blaming global warming

      Personally, I would like to skip Thanksgiving with the relatives, mainly because the Redskins play the Cowboys that day and we don't always get to watch the games when we do the holiday over there



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