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Earth

After Recent US Storms, Why Are Millions Still Without Power? 813

Hugh Pickens points out a report from Jamie Smith Hopkins that "The unusual nature of the 'derecho' is complicating efforts to get everyone's much-needed air conditioning up and running again as more than 1.4 million people from Illinois to Virginia still remain without power and power companies warn some customers could be without power for the rest of the week in the worst hit areas. Utilities don't have enough staff to handle severe-storm outages – the expense would send rates soaring – so they rely on out-of-state utilities to send help, says Stephen Woerner, Baltimore Gas and Electric's (BGE) chief operating officer. Hurricane forecasts offer enough advanced warning for utilities to 'pre-mobilize' and get the out-of-state assistance in place but the forecast for Friday's walloping wind was merely scattered thunderstorms. 'No utility was prepared for what we saw in terms of having staff available that first day,' says Woerner. But is it a given that a strong storm would cause this magnitude of damage to the electricity grid? 'Even without pursuing the extremely expensive option of burying all of the region's electrical lines, the utilities can and do take steps between bouts of severe weather to prevent outages,' writes the Baltimore Sun, adding that consumer advocates are concerned that utilities invest sufficiently in preventive maintenance. 'Tree trimming and replacement of old infrastructure — particularly in areas that have been shown to be vulnerable to previous storms — helps prevent outages.'"

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