“Have you got power?” was the greeting used in Greensboro over the weekend, replacing “How are you?” The answer overwhelming heard was “No,” with the follow-up, “Do you have any idea when it’s coming back on?”
The answer for that was a universal, “No.”
For days the Duke Energy outage map showed “Assessing Damage” as the only hint when power might come back on, and that was correctly interpreted by most to mean “Not any time soon.”
There was a massive amount of damage in the Southeast from Hurricane Michael, which meant Duke Energy and all the electrical utilities in this part of the country couldn’t shift workers to Guilford County.
Our power came back on Monday about 11 a.m. And here is another hint for Duke Energy: Always under promise. On Sunday evening we got a notice that our electricity would be back on at 11:45 Sunday night. I figured they would overestimate the time, so about 9 p.m. I was expecting to get power. By Monday morning I was resigned to having Duke forget all about us, like they did once years ago and I think we were about the last people in Greensboro to get our power back on after an ice storm. I had to go out and beg a crew to come see why only two houses in the neighborhood didn’t have power.
After four days I finally stopped hitting the light switch every time I walked into a dark room, but I never stopped pulling the cord in the closets. Neither one did me any good.
I relearned how to read by flashlight. Something I don’t remember doing as a child. I’d just wait for my parents to kiss me good night and close the door and then turn the lamp on and read. But I did live for a time on an island near Mexico Beach that didn’t have electricity, so I had learned to balance a flashlight on my shoulder to read and it wasn’t so bad.
By Sunday we were getting pretty tired of take-out and the Muse started telling me about a friend who was cooking great meals on a Coleman stove and I remembered I had a Coleman stove somewhere. Amazingly, I found it before it got dark and cooked Sunday dinner. I know it hadn’t been used in 20 years so I was a little amazed that it worked, but it was actually none the worse for its long vacation.
I also learned that it is really a good idea to look for your flashlights before it gets dark. I have a good collection of flashlights, so there was no shortage, except when I didn’t get them all collected before dark. Why are so many flashlights black? Finding a black flashlight in a dark room is not an easy task.
I also wonder how people got by with just candles. They look good and all of that, but I think we had 20 candles on our dining room table and it was still tough to see what I was eating. Perhaps if you aren’t used to light bulbs then candles seem really bright, but I wonder how anybody knew what anybody else looked like at night in rooms only lit with candles.
Sitting around with no internet does provide a lot of time to think and I thought a lot about how much I like electricity, but it made me wonder why we still get our electricity from wires strung on wooden poles just like they did in the 1800s when electricity was a novelty.
Really, look at the advances in communication technology and compare that to our electricity deliver system. They have improved the meters, or so I’m told, but why in the world don’t we have a method of providing electricity to people that doesn’t use wires on wooden poles?
Of course, Duke Energy has absolutely no incentive to invest in any other system because none of us have any choice. We can either buy electricity from Duke or go without. If storm repair costs Duke millions, they can pass that cost on to us the customer and it is the way they have always done it.
I think a bipartisan commission in the legislature should look at either allowing competition in the electrical delivery system or force Duke to come up with a system that isn’t so susceptible to storm damage. The cable company put our cable line underground in a matter of minutes. I know that electricity is more dangerous and complicated than a cable wire, but it’s still a wire. Why can’t they come up with an inexpensive method of putting all those wires underground or something?