The Ice Storm Cometh

Steven Brown, editor in chief

At about 4 o’clock the morning of Dec. 10, I woke up to what my sleep-addled mind could only guess was an alien invasion on the order of what Spielberg portrayed in his War of the World’s remake.

It was the sound that woke me up: A combination low-pitched but loud humming, buzzing, crackling and metallic banging. That’s the best I can do; it would take a wordsmith on the order of H.P. Lovecraft to accurately describe the otherworldly clamor echoing through my backyard. Have you seen the trailer to that new movie “Cloverfield”? The one where some unseen but apparently huge beast sends the Statue of Liberty’s head rolling down a New York City street? It sounded like that.

It was the sound that woke me up, but what truly put me in the apocalyptic mind-set was the eerie green light flooding my bedroom. What could it be other than advance scouts preparing the way for Martian colonization or Cthulhu risen from the deep?

Somewhere between the second and third series of buzz-hiss-boom and flash of green light, I had my senses about me enough to realize the icy rain that had started falling before I went to bed must have accumulated to the point of pulling down some power lines and popping some transformers. Subsequent sounds of tree limbs cracking and falling, and a quick, fearful peek out my back window, confirmed that this was the case.

The rest of the early morning hours were spent in fitful half-sleep, as I listened to transformer after transformer popping in the distance and wondered how much ice it would take to bring down the tree that hangs over my garage.

As unpleasant an awakening as it was, the following days have been worse. As I write this article, I remain one of 600,000-some Oklahomans without power. They’re calling it the worst outage in state history, and I’m not going to argue with them. (Happy Centennial, fellow Oklahomans!) Our office is on emergency generator power, and maybe half the computers are up and running. (Mine is one of the lucky few.) Back at my house, we’re on about hour 56 without power. We’ve run through all the Dura Flame logs the stores have to offer, and I’m now gathering up wet fallen limbs from the yard to fuel the fireplace and warm at least one small part of one room in our house.

AEP’s Tulsa subsidiary, Public Service of Oklahoma, reports it will take a week to 10 days to fully restore power. I’m not about to judge them harshly; the town looks like it’s been bombed in places. I applaud the efforts of local PSO workers and the thousands that have come in from neighboring utilities to lend a hand. Godspeed, you noble linemen!

It’s an experience that really makes you appreciate electric power and the discomfort that follows when you’re without it. In this issue, we polled a number of utilities about their plans for grid improvement in 2008 and beyond. Since it’s our January issue, we’ll call this collection of reports “New Year’s Resolutions for T&D.”

I’m a consumer of electric power rather than a provider, so I don’t have a T&D resolution. What I do have is a T&D holiday wish: Restored power and continued reliability throughout 2008. As it turns out, I’m an electric power addict, and the withdrawal pains are miserable.

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