A week trimming's worth 3 days in dark

Tammie Toler

Tap ... Tap ... Tap ... Tap. Tap. Tap. T-t-t-t-tap-t-t-t-t-Tap. 

This was what I thought was rain hitting the living room window about 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, as the fella planned his day trip out of town for work, and I pondered whether I’d really be able to get to the office as early as I hoped. I’d tried really, really, really hard to be on schedule this week. 

My calendar was actually caught up, and I was determined to keep it that way. There was a full day of layout on the agenda, not to mention to two events that fate had handed me — scheduled AT THE EXACT SAME TIME, after what most people consider the end of the workday. 

I soon discovered that rain wasn’t really rain. Well, it might have been rain when it fell, but it was freezing as soon as it landed. By the time I was ready to face the world outside my walls, my Jeep was covered in a solid sheet of ice. I did manage to get all four doors open, but the rear hatch was frozen solid. My scraper was in the luggage compartment, but I lowered the back seat to shimmy and stretch through and snatch it. After blasting the windows with the heater, defroster and scraping as much as I could, both windshields and all four windows offered patches of clear glass through which I could peer at winter’s first wrath.

This was no fluffy, friendly, sledding wonderland. This was nasty stuff. Trees on my narrow, rural route hung so low and wide that there were numerous times I heard their reaching, grasping limbs brush the pretty layer of my new car and sent up hopes that the ice was still clinging on the sides and roof to protect the clearcoat and paint. 

As I crept in four-wheel drive over the semi-frozen slush and slid through the curves, I hoped against hope that the light I left on in the living room would still be on when I pulled into the driveway in the evening, but I knew the odds were not good.

Appalachian Power does not have my confidence. It’s far more likely that my electrical service will go off during a winter storm than it is that it will stay on. The same is true of nearly any storm. Or even if the wind blows, and it’s windy on my hilltop. 

So, I was not surprised to get the call from Dad, asking if my electricity was off. By that time, I had been at work for about 2 hours, had no idea. He planned to report my outage at the same time as his, if mine was out.

I advised him to call a neighbor, because there was no one except my overly intelligent Maltipoo at my home. Although Roby says a lot for a canine, even he hasn’t figured out how to answer the phone when there isn’t one at the house. 

Shortly thereafter, I got a text from the frustrating utility advising that they knew of my outage but had no estimated time of restoration. That’s utility-speak for telling me they don’t know why I — and 2001 of my neighbors — are going to be in the dark and cold for an indeterminate amount of time for a reason they won’t state. 

Soon, my sister newspaper sent out a news alert blast informing that thousands throughout the area were without power. So, I was less alone than I thought. I logged on through my phone to see if there was any indication of when my service might be restored, since I knew the house would be dark and cold, and the dinner I left to warm in the Slow Cooker will be as chilly as the front porch when I get home. 

The last estimate — via recording — I heard was that Appalachian was too busy to take calls but estimates indicate 90 percent of customers in both Virginias should be restored by 10 p.m. on Nov. 17. Only three days in the dark! Wonderful!

If they truly don’t know why this happens, I can certainly fill them in.

They stopped trimming the trees. I can only suppose it got too expensive, based on the calculations of someone who crunches the numbers somewhere else and doesn’t have to endure these ridiculously frequent outages. This someone also doesn’t have to ride out days without heat every time an ice storm sweeps through the area or a nor’easter settles over the Mid Atlantic region. A few winters ago, we went three days without water and would have lost the food in our freezers without the assistance of generators. 

I totally understand that Thursday’s storm was unpreventable and that neither line nor limb could stand up to some of the weight from Thursday’s accumulating ice. Though I expect a lot, I don’t hold any utility to standards of superhuman feats. However, I also know for a fact that the same trees that likely fell on the lines in this area didn’t just grow overnight between Wednesday and Thursday. They could have — and in my opinion — should have been trimmed prior to the storm. They were not. 

If there have been any maintenance or preventative projects at all, they have only begun in the last month to six weeks.

Clearly, that was not soon enough. As a result, we’ll pay for it through a dark, cold winter. And, the next time AEP gets the chance, they’ll argue the need to recoup costs of repairs through increased rates.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net