Last year Hurricane Irene left 85% of Somers in darkness, cold and exhausting anxiety for up to eight days. Not to be outdone, Sandy scorned 95% of the town of its utility for a hellish 11 days for the least fortunate. So with Mother Nature getting angrier, the numbers imply the government leaders we entrust to rise to these challenges have not kept pace with a wrath that doesn't seem to be going away.
Certainly in the center of both the storm and the efforts to get her town back online, Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy discussed the obvious numericaland natural discrepancies, the town's role between and during the storms and its ongoing relationship with NYSEG to improve response and preparation.
No matter, as these storms descend, the winds whipping around makes the trees above seem like the expanse of numbers on a roulette wheel, which of course laughs at you at every turn. On the other hand, the house or the town is supposed to be on your side so why are the odds not cut or trimmed in your favor beforehand.
“They are NYSEG’s lines,” says Murphy and town workers do not have the authority or expertise to operate around them without supervision.
Nonetheless, through continued agitation from the town, Somers has gotten some action out of NYSEG since Irene. “They are using a five year plan so basically 20% of the town was cut this year,” she says.
The 10% increase in outage does, though, seem to go against the arithmetic. Murphy attributed this to the unusually easterly direction of Sandy. “Trees and root systems here are stronger to withstand a westerly storm,” she relayed from various news sources, and the result was seen in a vast abundance of completely uprooted trees.
That said, whole sections of town roadways were cut off. “This is a severe safety issue when fire trucks and emergency vehicles cannot get from one part of town to the other,” she says.
In this she expressed significant dissatisfaction with NYSEG’s approach. “I don’t think that they gear up enough in advance of the storm. They need to be here before the storm, so as soon as it’s over, work can begin,” she says.
That,of course, would include Somers crews but they weren’t the only ones left on standby, waiting for NYSEG. Receiving thousands of calls at the town hall, she says, “you feel like a NYSEG calling center.”
For its part, Somers had the highway, police and fire department on full alert and ready to go with full tanks of gas. The town also implemented a code red system after Irene so residents could stay up to date on cell phones. “We encourage anybody who’s not signed up for it to go to our website Somersny.com and do so,” she says.
The emergency shelter – set up and planned after Irene – operated indifferent to all the chaos above and compliant to this community’s spirit. Feeding and housing residents in need, she said, “We ran the shelter 24/7 – with all volunteers.”
But short of encapsulating each of Somers’ nine substations in fortresses and encasing transformers in cement, weather patterns suggest outages will continue to be frequent affairs. “Climate change is with us,” she says. “Anybody who wasn’t convinced before is certainly convinced now.”
We should be so lucky, and given that, is it any wonder Thomas Edison himself would be familiar enough with today’s technology to ascend the poles with NYSEG workers. “I think it’s time to take his system to the next level,” she says.
Saying it is a start, hopefully those with the proper tools are listening or we’ll be spending a lot more time in the dark.
My article originally appeared at :
Somers Chuck Gilberti http://expertscolumn.com/content/somers-gym-teacher-related-his-students-and-will-never-be-forgotten