It seems that every time you turn around lately here in the Midwest we’re going through the “worst” of something or the other. It’s been an interesting year weather wise. We’ve had one of the worst droughts, worst summer storms, worst heat wave, and worst ice storms, and all of it in one year. At least we didn’t have the worst flood. That was back in 1993. I guess we have to save something for the spring. God must have something against the Bible belt. Or maybe it’s just the trees. They seem innocent enough, providing nice shade in the summertime and looking really nice in the fall. It seems that most people around here aren’t directing their anger at the trees; they’re more focused on the utility companies. Seems that Ameren U.E. has been a little lax of late about trimming the tree limbs that hang over their power lines. This has resulted in massive power outages during the storm last summer as well as the ice storms in November and the one just a couple of days ago in January. The company says that it is doing the best that it can under the circumstances and needs more money to get the job done and pay their executives a nice healthy bonus. However, people get a little upset when they get heat stroke in their houses in the summer and hypothermia in the winter and still have to pay that month’s electric bill. Then Ameren has the audacity to be right in the middle of a rate hike request when the last disaster struck. Years ago, when Ameren U.E. was called Union Electric they had a mascot who was a red lightening bolt with a funny light bulb looking face. He was called Ready Kilowatt. I remember ice storms back then, but very few power outages. Maybe they should bring him back.
Some homeowners were surprised to find out that if the power line damage that occurred was within the boundaries of their property, then they were responsible for repairing the line as well as clearing the fallen tree branches. The utility company was kind enough to provide a warning that the homeowner shouldn’t try reattaching broken power lines himself though. File that one alongside the warning not to operate a gasoline generator inside the house or try to heat your apartment with charcoal briquettes.
Ameren estimates that they still have about 90,000 customers without power in the St. Louis area and about 300,000 statewide. They are unable to say how long it will take to get the power restored. The forecast for the next few days is for frigid temperatures in the low teens and high winds. This, along with the ice on the lines, could cause more power to go out.
During the last storm, when there was over a half million people without electricity, I went over to a friend’s house that still had power, miraculously, throughout the storm. As I sat in her warm living room after having survived a couple of freezing days in my own house, we heard a utility truck pull down the alley in back. We watched out the window as the truck stopped and the men began working. A few minutes later, her power went out. It was out for almost four hours. Go figure.