Snowstorm In Clendenin, WV 2009
Like many people back in December we got hit by a snowstorm which (at least in Clendenin, West Virginia) practically sent us back to the stone age. Just before midnight on Friday, December 18 2009 the cable went out. No biggie – the TV schedule sucked anyway. Within the hour the power and the phone followed suit. And that’s when the real fun began.
Fortunately for us we have a log fire and a reasonable supply of logs which meant that we weren’t totally without heat. It wasn’t great – we could get the den up to about 62 F – but it was certainly better than the rest of the house which very quickly dropped to 40 F. We always have food and water on hand for emergencies and thanks to a camping gas stove we could at least cook after a fashion.
The Response From the Media and Our State Officials
We also have a small radio (just for emergencies) and so we tuned in to try and find out what was happening. There’s half a dozen local stations so we didn’t think that would be too hard. Boy, were we ever wrong.
What we needed to know were details of the power outages (and what steps were being taken to repair the downed lines) and whether our area had even been reported as out and of course, what Verizon were up to as regards downed phone lines. With the phone out we couldn’t report the power out. Cellphone coverage where we live (a whole 25 miles from the state capital) is non-existent.
Every station told us that it was snowing and going to snow some more. Really? I’d never have known that. Unless, of course, I’d looked out the window. Only one station had anything about power outages – a recording of some jerk saying they’d spoken to the power company who said they didn’t know when power would be restored for anyone.
This information was deemed so useful they repeated it every hour. Nothing about the phones at all. That was Saturday.
On the Sunday even that “useful” bit of in formation had disappeared. In it’s place we got a really, really, really useful list of churches that would be closed and that was it. Nothing else at all. WTF? We were relatively OK but undoubtedly there were people out there actually in danger. How about (at the very least) some useful info for them? Like… oh… I don’t know… oh yeah! Emergency shelters so they didn’t freeze to death?
One broadcast that caught my attention was the governor “calling for answers.” Aha! Maybe he’s not impressed either I thought. Apparently though he only wanted answers as to why the turnpike hadn’t been closed resulting in many motorists being trapped. Of course, not a word that they were dumb-ass enough to be on the turnpike with a snowstorm forecast. And not a word about the shitty infrastructure. I guess Joe had heat and phone service in his mansion.
And Our Phone Company’s 10¢
As for our telephone company, Verizon, when we could finally get off the mountain and into a cellphone area with coverage, my wife reported our phone out and was told it would be a further 8 days before the line got fixed. Our line was actually fine it was a trunk line that was screwed.
We rent two lines through Verizon and it’s far from cheap. We also both work from home (hence two phone lines as Verizon doesn’t seem to know about DSL out here) and Verizon’s incapacity to cope had already cost us a $1000 and so she complained saying that wasn’t good enough. The Verizon rep immediately replied with an extremely snotty “Do you realize it snowed ma’am?” No shit Sherlock. Like we didn’t know.
To cut a long sad saga short it was Christmas Eve (6 days after the outage) that we got power back and 9 days after the outage that we got the phones back. I am not for one second criticizing the guys out there doing the repair work – that’s a hard-assed and very cold job. I do criticize the companies behind them though. Not enough staff for dealing with something that happens every winter here.
As for the radio stations I consider their contribution to the community to be the crappiest I have ever experienced any time, anywhere. They were about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. God help us in this country if the weather ever truly causes the wheel to come off.
It’s Worse In Other Countries
That is something I’ve been told many times since I came over here and got married. You know what? It isn’t!
I have lived in Canada where the snowfall makes West Virginia’s “storm” look like a brief flurry. Did the power go out there? No. Did the phone lines go out? No.
I have also lived and worked in Iceland. Same thing, only they get 50 MPH winds as regular as clockwork to go with the snow. No interruption to service.
In the UK I have been through hurricanes and guess what? The power did not go out. Sure, there were trees down and getting around town was tricky for a couple of days, but I did not have to sit in the dark wondering when the power would be restored.
The Last Word
If power lines hadn’t been done on the cheap here (as in most of the US unfortunately) and had been buried (a novel concept apparently) as many countries have done the power wouldn’t have gone out, would it? Phones yes. Power no.
I am sure that the power lines will never get buried here now as it would just be too difficult and too expensive. My power goes out on average ten times a year – apparently “stuff” is always “contacting” their “facilities!” A wonderful euphemism!
Sometimes it’s because of snow, sometimes rain, sometimes a strong wind, sometimes a gentle breeze, sometimes a drunk taking a power pole out, and sometimes just for the sheer hell of it.