Friday, December 08, 2006
Midwest power outage sparks angry questions
Does it seem like public utilities and other energy companies are getting better ... or worse ... at serving the public?

In Illinois right now, thousands of people who lost electricity in an ice storm last week may well say "worse." That's because some of them are still without power.

The storm was admittedly a whopper. More than a half million customers of the Ameren company lost electricity, and the company says it has been working relentlessly ever since to restore full service. But the fact remains, tens of thousands of customers were driven from their homes by the cold and darkness while the repair effort went on.

The blackout in New York, the brownouts on the West Coast, and of course, the lingering problems on the Gulf Coast following Katrina, have raised alarms about the vulnerability of the nation's power grid.

In Illinois, where people waited longest for their power to be restored after the recent storm, state officials are asking questions: Did Ameren have enough repair crews standing by? Did it do enough to prevent damage by, for example, trimming tree branches near power lines aggressively? Some officials in Illinois and neighboring Missouri are calling for an investigation.

Ameren says it welcomes these questions. It says it has done an excellent job maintaining its infrastructure, responding to its customers, and mitigating the impact of a terrible storm.

My question is this: In the wake of Katrina and all the delays that followed in restoration of even basic services, are you more ... or less ... inclined to believe that the "powers that be" are watching over your home's power supply?
Posted By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent: 11:48 AM ET

You pose some very interesting questions. Questions I would like to see answered.

I live in the midwest and was one of many hudreds of thousands of people who lost power for several days. My power was restored earlier this week, but it was the second time in almost 7 months I lost power for several days.

I feel the power companies need to take a closer look at the changing weather patterns. What might have worked several years ago is not working now because things are changing.

I hope the current situation, in the midwest, is finally the wake up call needed to assess the situation.

Thanks. Keep up the great work.
Posted By Anonymous L, St. Louis, Mo : 12:03 PM ET
Hi Tom,
I just survived a 12 hour power outage this week. It was a beautiful, sunny day, no storms, no winds, and absolutely no explaination from the power company. Usually they say an owl hit a transformer..Yeah right. I really do feel our electric grid in this country is haywire..Let's hope SOMEONE wakes up to the reality that we need to maintain our utilities or we all will be sitting in the dark. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif : 12:07 PM ET
Utilities are stretched to the max in today's cities. We are operating in full power, with no sign of decreasing, only increasing the population, so how can we continue to expect great service?
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 12:10 PM ET
Ameren had hundreds of service trucks ready to go as well as out of state workers. The problem is that few of these workers had instructions of where the outages were.
The problems with Ameren are not the number and quaility of its workers but the management and the lack thereof. They are more concerned with buyouts, such as its consumption of Illinois Power, and stock prices than it is with infrastructure and delivery of power.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin St Louis, MO : 12:12 PM ET
I think there's only so much you can do to 'prepare' for events like this. How can anyone know how many lines will be affected by a particular storm? Lines go down for other reasons besides trees--I've seen it. How many members of those crews might've had vacation time or other circumstances where they weren't available--including situations where the crew member had to deal with a home situation because of the storm? To me, it's like saying 'you know tornados happen here, why didnt you build a more solid house?'. If you're unfortunately affected, you have to deal with it and move on---no one's going to have a life completely unaffected by some unforeseen event.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Sumers, Tinley Park, IL : 12:18 PM ET
A couple of winters ago we had a massive ice storm that level miles of poles and lines, transformers blew up, and power was lost to over 200,000. In my area we were last to have power restored (two weeks). We made the best of it with generators and kerosene heaters. The power companies did all they could with crews brought in from all over the country. No one blamed anybody because it is a risk you take in areas that have winter weather. It had happened before and will happen again. Blame games don't benefit anyone.
Posted By Anonymous Larry Moore Losantville In : 12:19 PM ET
I keep thinking of 'deregulation' and how it was suppose to create less government, better service at a lower price. Oops, NOT.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 12:20 PM ET
Where was the outrage last year near this time, when there was a month long power outage in South Dakota following a blizzard just after Thanksgiving?
Posted By Anonymous Andy Jones, Plymouth MN : 12:35 PM ET
Who are the 'Powers that be'? No one is watching. The executives of these power companies are getting richer while the number of line crews and maintenance workers decline. The power grid was set up by lobbiests interested in selling the most electricity at the highest amount and no concern about providing sufficient power to the population at all times. They expect outages and it is acceptable to the 'Powers that be'.

Retired CWA
Posted By Anonymous Karl Eltzroth, Irving, TX : 12:37 PM ET
If you own a tree that could down a power line, why on earth is it the utility that must trim your tree?

If you lost your power due to a tree owned by the guy down the street, sue him for your damages.

Let's keep the utility company in the business of delivering power rather than turning them into a publicly subsidized landscaping crew.
Posted By Anonymous Tom Shaughnessy, Chesterfield Missouri : 12:45 PM ET
The Electric company needs to care more about the needs of the customer and less about the profits for the investors.
Posted By Anonymous matt st louis, mo : 12:45 PM ET
Hi Tom~
Last year when hurricane Rita Was headed for Houston, then turned and hit Beaumont, it kept coming inland with hurricane force winds until it hit my town, Nacogdoches which is at least 150 miles inland. A hurricane force storm had NEVER hit here before! Anyway, I have plenty of room in my house so I had a houseful of people who evacuated from Houston,. You remember the traffic jam out of Houston? A two hour trip from Houston to my town turned into 16 hours with gas running short. Anyway,I had a houseful of frustrated people who thought they fled a hurricane only to drive 16 hours into one! Surprise! Electricity was out for almost three weeks in some areas here. I was lucky and my electricty was only out for about 10 hours. Yes, there was some damage here but I could not believe that some people had to go without power that long! So, I do believe that the "powers that be" are watching over my home's power supply and it's frightening. I hope that all those people who lost power in the ice storm get power soon. It's way too cold! By the way Tom, many of those evacuees in my home were college students and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have a college student hurricane party in your house! Geez~ what a crazy evening, best of my recolection! I'm not hoping for another hurricane anytime soon! Have a god week~end Tom!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 12:52 PM ET
Tom, it's about time someone asked those questions. I worry about my grandparents and their friends. What if there was a storm, the power was out for days and I couldn't get to them? Very good reporting! Hopefully someone will listen.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 1:02 PM ET
I live in one of the three areas in suburban St. Louis that was hit hard by the power outage. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to afford a motel room and to find an available one. Many of our neighborhoods have wires that are 30 to 60 years old. Ameren needs to begin replacing the wire with the steel cables that are being used in newer construction. The other issue is tree growth. We need a law that prohibits trees within a certain area of the wires. Ameren should take responsibility for trimming trees in public areas and easements and homeowners should be responsible for keeping wires clear of tree limbs or be fined for neglect. We have to become realistic about the changes that need to be made SOONER than LATER! I have nothing but respect and admiration for the actual workers who were working ridiculous hours in the bitter cold to get the power back on.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Grafeman, St. Louis, MO : 1:04 PM ET

A question to ask is, which came first--the tree or the power line? In addition to focusing on getting the power back on, power companies need to be more proactive about inspecting power lines and trimming trees and preventing problems. Property owners may have to take things into their own hands if the power company is not taking action. I am not letting the power companies off the hook. I would be fit to be tied if I had to pay for something that is the responsibility of my power company. However, it might be preferable to being without power in either a heat wave or cold snap.

That said, our lines are buried in our neighborhood but we are still subject to black outs because of old transformers giving up the ghost. These are replaced as they go out leaving you in the dark with no explanation as to why your power went out. While we are bashing power companies I do want to put in a word for my power company, Pacific Gas & Electic. The heat wave this summer brought temperatures of 115 for days on end. The lights flickered a bit and we lost power for brief times, but the power stayed on with all the ACs humming 24/7, a rarity for us where we usually get a nice delta breeze at night and can open up windows.

And my ending comment, at least my friends in the Midwest can see the reason for their outages. I still remember sitting in my cubicle at work in the cold and dark with my coat and gloves on and my computer off to save energy. I couldn't see all the way to Texas and the warm, brightly lit offices at Enron.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 1:05 PM ET
Nothing, virtually nothing has been done to fix/augment the grid. Several years ago several states lost power because of one overload in Ohio and zip's been done ... Well, almost nothing.

In NYS a bunch of canadians formed a firm (NYRI) and want to run a major power line down the middle of neighborhoods for 180 miles with 90 towers; beautiful!
Posted By Anonymous greg morra, utica new york : 1:23 PM ET
I'm in Illinois and haven't had power since last Thursday. I have been living in central Illinois with a relative until power can be restored. Ameren told me yesterday power was back on and I could move back in. After driving almost 3 hours to get home I found out that nothing had been done and had to turn around and drive back with my elderly mother who just had a heart attack 2 weeks ago. Ameren let us go several days this summer in blistering heat with no power too. Whjen I complained earlier this week I was given a speech about how the power company needs a pay hike to provide better services. It's hard to justify a hike when the services aren't being provided. This has been awful.
Posted By Anonymous Adrienne, Fairview Heights, IL : 1:47 PM ET
I live in one of the St. Louis neighborhoods that lost power. We were in the cold for three days. The problem is threefold. Ameren has failed to maintain the tree trimming program in public areas. We also need a law which mandates tree trimming year round and allocates appropriate budget for this purpose. Ameren has also failed to maintain and upgrade old power lines (some are 60 years old)and old badly insulated transformers. Power lines should temporarily be reinsulated until they are quickly replaced with the steel cables used in new construction. Transformers should be heavily insulated. Ameren bills for these services; they just don't provide them. In St. Louis a local radio DJ; JC Corcoran (96.3FM)was taking stories from around town. Repair crews were sitting idle in Union Station for HOURS AND DAYS BECAUSE THE MANAGEMENT FAILED TO PROVIDE ROUTE MAPS OF OUTAGE AREAS. To add further insult to injury; wealthier areas such as Ladue(where the President's relatives live)were serviced before anyone else. Ameren claimed areas of greater population would receive help first; Ladue is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the state. In short, I resent being billed for service and repairs that aren't done. Ameren was criminally liable. Charges of criminal negligence should be directed to the execs, and possible felony murder charges for the 18 people who perished. I am disgusted with the corporation, and their fiscal piracy.
Posted By Anonymous Jeanine Molloff St. Louis, MO. : 1:47 PM ET
There is a bigger story here - in the more affluent parts of town - the power is restored VERY quickly - and trust me, they have plenty of large trees and ice. If you are poor, black, or rural - you wait a LONG time for Ameren. They make record profits, but do not maintain the tree trimming needed to avoid these power interruption disasters.
Posted By Anonymous Gina, St. Louis, MO : 2:12 PM ET
Tom: Let's cut Ameren some slack. With the temperatures and wind chill resulting in below zero conditions, it's got to be quite challenging for their workers to continue to be in this weather and repair the damage. Just like we've been challenging those that live in the Gulf coast to be "hurricane" prepared, we should just as well challenge those of us that live in the Midwest to be prepared for winter storms, tornados, and lightening storms by having food, water, and electric generators available for those times when we lose our electricity.
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 2:24 PM ET
I think a major reason why these types of power trouble happens is beacuse of a lack of maintainence. I often notice that things such as trees fall on the lines and cause problems.

Where I live, you must maintain your greenery so that it does not touch power lines. Not doing so results in fines and the city's right to trim it back and bill the property owner for the work.

Keep up the good work Tom. Take Care.
Posted By Anonymous Molly Ann, Houston, TX : 2:38 PM ET
I live in upstate New York just 75 miles north of New York City. The area is suburban/rural. Here the power goes out for no good reason. Hear of a storm coming and you better get ready. Last winter the power went out for over 24 hours in freezing conditions after a snowstorm. It got to 42 degrees inside the house. This winter we bought a generator. We noticed more people are doing the same. When the power goes out you can hear the humming.
Posted By Anonymous Sylvia, Kent, NY : 2:41 PM ET
Often, whatever a utility does, trim trees, upgrade power lines, add a sub station, some bunch of NIMBYs complain about how there life's are being devastated. Then a storm happens, again, and the stupid Utility is at fault
Posted By Anonymous rich, san diego, ca : 2:50 PM ET
Since the government decided a few years ago that de-regulation of power utilities (along the model of California!!) was a good idea, the large power companies have been split into "regulated" and "de-regulated" entities. While the transmission and distribution of power is typically de-regulated, the production of power is still regulated. Because of the poor design of de-regulation, the transmission and distribution side of power supply get the leaner portion of the energy company's budgeted monies. The result is poorer customer service and outages, just as occurred with the de-regulation of the phone companies. Now, if we can just perfect "wireless power"!!
Posted By Anonymous Leonard Hopkins, Illinois : 2:55 PM ET
So let me get this straight. We want 100% reliable electricity through tornadoes, ice storms, and snow storms, but in Illinois the politicians believe that the rates customers pay should be the same as they have been for the last 20 years. Let's face it, if we want immediate response and all new equipment, we are going to have to pay for it.
Posted By Anonymous Caine, Decatur, IL : 2:56 PM ET
I have lived in the Mid West all my life, but only until the last 6 to 7 years has the power company been extremely ineffiecient recouping from storm damage. The 18 to 24 inches of snow that fell a couple of weeks ago is nothing compared to past storms and customers never had to wait weeks for power to be restored. Something has changed with the power companies and we can pretty much guess it has to do with cutting costs and head count to keep up their profits.

Someone posted a comment that things happen, deal with it and move on. Storms come and go and some storms bring heavy damage. Yet if I compare service today to service 10 - 20 years ago it never took days or weeks let alone a month to restore power to areas hit by severe storms.They are using the average game to balance employee head count. Which means in situations above average their customers will wait and wait and wait for service to be restored.

One thing I did agree with on another post was learn to take care of yourself and stop depending on others. Buy a generator if you live in storm areas and test it each year. Be prepared and stop waiting for someone else to bail you out.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Moline, IL : 2:56 PM ET
Tom, I am telling you and all the bloggers out there again: quit having babies. This power issue and the utilities are NOT a problem, really. Just a "made-up" problem in a "man-made" world... Silly humans. We think we're gods; shame on us. Population control is the only way to eliminate the REAL problem: too many people!!
Posted By Anonymous Stan, St. Louis, MO : 3:01 PM ET
In addition to looking at the power company we should also consider examining the response of our local road crews. The Ameren trucks were repairing the lines in my neighborhood as soon as the roads were clear. However some streets were not cleared until Sunday.
Posted By Anonymous Michael, Peoria Ill : 3:05 PM ET
Until utility companies are required to bury lines and as long as they continue to profit from insurance payouts and government handouts when these situations occur, we will sit in the cold and dark.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff Buhring Beeville, Tx. : 3:07 PM ET
Not only is the infrastructure in question, but so are the work ethics in the power companies. While I watch my rates steadily increase I have seen no improvement in service. This summer we were hit but a Thunderstom that dropped 6 inches of rain and a power outage on my neighborhood. All of us in the two block area called the BGE help line constantly and finally were told that power would be restored NLT 11:00 pm. We went to bed. We all awoke the next morning at 7:00 am to no power and flooded basements due to the fact that our sump pumps were in operable. Over 20 homes affected, each suffering an average $15,000 in damages. Aparently there were not enough crews on duty and they did not work through the night. Had we known, and not been lied to, we could have taken precautionary measures.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle McCreary, Odenton, MD : 3:10 PM ET
Tom, I don't have much faith in the "powers that be" these days. I'm glad that Ameren is being investigated. What you didn't mention is that essentially the same thing happened in July of this year after two strong storms hit St. Louis back to back.

I was lucky this time and kept my power, but back in July not only was my power out, but the power of my local water treatment plant was out too. This meant my county was under a boil water order and that's kind of hard to do when you don't have power. Thanks to watching the horrible incompetence after Katrina, I already had supplies prepared.

Also, it's interesting to point out that when it comes to power, Missouri is regulated and Illinois is not. Guess who pays more? I wonder what those who live and die by the free market think about that.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 3:18 PM ET
Having worked for a utility line maintenance company for several years, one of the bigger challenges the power companies are facing is the ability to effectively trim trees that are on private property. Many of the outages that are caused during storms are from limbs/trees in peoples backyards that are falling over the lines because they would not allow the tree company contracted by the power company to effectively trim the limbs back. Those people are also the same people that are yelling and screaming every time their power goes out. "Serving" the public in this area and giving in to every person that whines about having an extra foot cut off of their tree has crippled the electric companies in some instances. I am sure that in others it is indeed neglect.

Are you people really suggesting that someone go out and trim their own trees away from the power lines? You think you have problems with your power going out now...if that happens, you will be lucky for your power to stay on at all...not to mention, lucky to have all of your neighbors unharmed from the current on those lines.

Good luck with your power in the midwest, but I don't think that there is some conspiracy by the power company to try and get rich while you all sit in the cold weather!
Posted By Anonymous Greg Richmond, VA : 3:27 PM ET
Many years ago, our family lost power for five days due to an ice storm in Michigan. We were miserably cold.

When we decided to build a new house, it was important to us that we'd not rely so much on the utility companies and foreign oil. We built a passive and active solar house and also installed a wood stove, just in case there is no sun on a cold day.

The big midwestern blackout occurred after we moved in. We didn't even notice our loss of power until someone called us to ask. We had to flip a light switch to find out.

After almost seven years in this house and all through power outages caused by thunderstorms, ice storms, squirrels and owls in transformers, and such, we've been safe and even cozy.
Posted By Anonymous Deb Wolter, Dexter, Michigan : 3:31 PM ET
Kansas City had the same ice storm, followed by the same snowstorm and our city maintained power with no outages.

I feel sorry for my fellow Missourians who have come to routinely expect that any weather event will bring at least a week of misery.

Someone whether in the power company or the state of Missouri, step up, take responsibility and make the changes to ensure that this doesn't continue to happen.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Kansas City, MO : 3:32 PM ET
You think thats bad, wait till we're getting 40% of the nation's generation from wind power the way it's set up now. The very first thing I was told when I was hired in a powerplant was "Never hammer the grid." The second thing was "Try not to get killed." When the wind stops blowing, and it will, we will lose the grid. The worst part is, there is an acceptable way to do wind generation. There's a utility in, South Carolina, I think, that's doing it. Instead of hanging expensive and delicate generators and gear sets up towers, they put rugged and not so RPM sensitive aircompressors up the towers. To make electricity, they put a low pressure air turbine in front of their normal steam turbine setup. They keep the steam plant throttled back but hot so that if the wind drops or the grid becomes unstable they can immediately throttle up the steam plant and cover it. That is a working system.
Posted By Anonymous James Bogart. Casper, Wyoming : 3:33 PM ET
I work for a midwest utility company. I don't believe any company can afford to have manning to take care of natural disasters such as this. I know when we have had ice storms, tornados, wind damage with thousands of customers out of service, we have called on utilities in the area to come in and help. You have widespread outages where you can pick up many customers with one crew, but you also have many outages where only one or two customers are involved but you have to set 10 new poles and string wire and install transformers, just to get to one customer. Ameren says they had 7000 utility workers on the job. That's probably more than half of what they usually manager. At our company during times of multiple outages the linemen work 16+ hours on and 8 hours off - and when I say 8 hours off that means drive time, meal time and sleep. How many of you out there can leave your job, immediately fall asleep and be ready to report back to hard, demanding, and most importantly dangerous work in just 8 short hours. Sure they make good money, but what they do is a very dangerous job. Also, all the phones, dispatch radios, etc. must be manned 24 hours a day with staff that also work many long hours - some 24 hours on and then 8 off. Trees - yes we need to trim trees, but next time your utility company is in your neighborhood and wants to trim a tree away from power lines are you going to be that gracious customer that understands why or you going to be the one who comes yelling out of their house that we have destroyed the tree - our trimmers have been called names, cussed at and threatened with bodily harm for trimming a tree and maybe keeping that customer from experiencing an outage. Squirrels, owls, etc. We have many outages caused by 'critters'. Squirrels climb the poles and get into equipment which causes their death and outages to customers. We've even had snakes get into equipment and cause outages. Is the utility company responsible for all animals - I think not. Also many of these workers leave their families who may not have power to go and work on someone else's home. During the recent hurricanes, many of our linemen, engineers, etc. traveled south to work in Louisiana and Mississippi. They lived in tents, worked long hot hours in areas they weren't familiar with. Most people were kind and thankful, but again you have those that were unhappy that we couldn't turn power on to a house that
couldn't pass inspection or electrical code and as such could not have electricity. Anyway, I know it's hard to have a good attitude when you don't have lights and it's cold, but try and give those utility workers a break - I can promise from experience that they are really doing a darn good job.
Posted By Anonymous Diane, Columbus, IN : 3:35 PM ET
This Administration has lived in a dream world all of their own. As long as they are well kept and taken care of to he@# with the rest of us. I can't even get affordable health insurance for my 28 year old son because he has bad migraines and takes alot of medicine. I don't think too many "powers that be" care at all what happens to the middle class, be it power supply, food, insurance, etc....We have been hung out to dry.
Posted By Anonymous Jane Pine, Terre Haute, In : 3:57 PM ET
I am less and less inclined to be that any "powers that be" are watching over anything but increasing their profit margins.

I have another question. Why do we have power lines above ground in areas that get snow and ice. We would not have problems with trees or ice on lines if they were underground. Undergound power lines would also make for better looking environments
Posted By Anonymous Victoria, Lewsiville TX : 4:00 PM ET
I live in Western NY, and we have been subjected to some pretty bad ice storms ourselves in the last few years and I know what it's like to live in the cold and dark for a week or more.

The power companies have always tried to do their best, but you're talking about huge areas here. Someone talked about burying all the power lines. That's fine if you live in Europe, but this is the USofA pal. This is a HUGE country. To bury the lines is a great idea, but one that will cost billions upon billions of dollars and even then we may still have problems.

The thing to do if you can is to make your home less reliant on the power company - passive/active solar, wood stoves, generators, etc etc can really help when the power is down. Let the power companies trim the trees.
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann B, Rochester, NY : 4:39 PM ET
Hi Tom: I think the power companies are far too busy counting their money. We get snow and ice every year in Illinois, and usually lots of it. They should be capable of fixing the problems within a reasonable time. The same with Katrina. We've dealt with hurricanes before. There is no reason that it should still be so far behind in reconstruction. We are at their mercy. Thanks for the story.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 4:49 PM ET
Thank you so much for giving this story the attention it deserves, Tom. I live in a suburb of St. Louis, and while we didn't lose power this time, my heart goes out to those who did. There is no excuse for Ameren's negligence in this matter, and I hope the Missouri Public Service Commission will have a full-scale investigation and get to the bottom of this.

In other news, we received our electric bill from Ameren yesterday. Enclosed was a notice stating they are planning on holding public meetings in January because they want to RAISE OUR RATES! What a joke! After the service (or lack thereof) they have the nerve to try to raise our rates so they can line the CEO's pockets.

No comparison to Katrina, of course, but this is ridiculous.

Thanks again for the coverage. I appreciate it!
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, St. Charles, MO : 4:51 PM ET
Power outages happen. We want low rate so the companies have to cut back. We used to expect problems and prepare for them. Now, if the air conditioning/heat, electric appliances,home theatre and whatever is not available we become distraught. Shame on us. Too many people. too much power usage and not enough conservation. I think we all can share the blame.Weather can be brutal. We need to plan ahead for the survival in the home as well as in the car.
Posted By Anonymous Mac, Fort Wayne, Indiana : 5:10 PM ET
There is a problem with how our electricity is being handled in this country weather related or not. Speaking from having gone through rolling blackouts here on the west coast during the summer months; there is something seriously wrong when sections of the city have their power turned off because apparently too many people have their A/C turned on. We're now told to run laundry at night as well as dishwashers because we don't have enough power to handle the city. I can't recall this ever being a problem before - only within the last few years. My last experience was at an outdoor concert this year when all of a sudden the music stopped and all the lights went out. This was at 8:00pm on a July evening. A rolling black out just went into effect - no notice (and there never are any) - luckily the facility had back up generators because we were without power the rest of the night. I swear I feel like we're becoming a third world country more and more each day with how this country is being handled (healthcare, Katrina).
Posted By Anonymous M. Wong, Los Angeles, CA : 5:27 PM ET
I noticed Stacy fr. St.Louis' comment:

don't you think the reason power is restored more quickly in a "free market" state is that competition and profit are good motivators? Letting the local govt regulate utilities is asking for trouble because there's no profit motivator! Because you're "regulated" by some govt agency is why you have longer power outtages! So you want the "powers that be" or private co's to control your electricity?
Posted By Anonymous Steve - Peoria Ill. : 5:52 PM ET
There is a freeze alert for most of the country right now. I dont think anybody would be comfortable if a power company suddenly lost electricity to thousands of homes. To maintain a backup source of power is a gradual process. We should encourage homeowners to get generators and kits for survival if another blackout were to occur in a major city.
Posted By Anonymous israel, raleigh, nc : 1:12 AM ET
Here in Oklahoma, when the power goes out during a severe thunderstorm (as it is wont to do), the power companies will be out, doing repairs, as soon as the danger of lightning strikes has passed. Middle of the night, doesn't matter. They're out there. Earlier this year, I spent a long weekend in Maryland; when I arrived, it had been raining a bit earlier in the day. The power was out in my hotel and a block or two surrounding. I was told it was caused by the storm. By the next morning, the power was still out, and everyone acted like I was unreasonable to think that this was a problem. Later that day, the phone lines were out at a festival I went to -- they couldn't take credit cards, and the ATMs weren't functioning. Because of the storm, they said. (What storm??? It *rained*. A *little*.) No one seemed to think it was unusual. All I could do was gape at them, and mentally compose the letter of appreciation for the utility workers back here in the Sooner State.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Norman, OK : 11:02 PM ET
I am in Missouri and was without power for nine days. Ameren had no answers. It really irked me when i heard matt blunt remind people to have proper ventelation if they use carosene or other gas power heaters. He should have been chewing someone at Ameren a new one because the people who voted him into office were literally freezing to death. Yes, there were shelters but being the owner of five dogs that I hold very dear they weren't an option for me. I spent my mortgage payment on a hotel and smuggled the dogs in and out. I had to take time off from work to do this. Thankfully I have no life so I have paid time off to use. I snuck out to a local coffeehouse to use the internet and do some online stuff so I wouldn't go insane. When the power finally came back on, I came home to around 300.00 of rotten food in the fridge and my Ameren bill. And Ameren is going to shut me off if I don't pay? We should get free service in Missouri and Illinois for some time to make up for this. But it won't happen. And all Blunt could do was say use proper ventalation. I've had power since Thursday and my house finally felt warm this morning. And this outage is after the summer outage where I didn't have power for four days in 104 degree heat. Ameren does not learn from the past so history unfortunately was and is bound to repeat itself.
Posted By Anonymous Beth, Ferguson, MO : 1:17 AM ET
Of course the powers that be are failing to maintain our infrastructure. They will continue to do so until Bush's war in Iraq is ended and some capital investments can begin to be made. But the US debt and deficits under Bush tell us that it will be a long time before there is much money for our domestic needs.
Posted By Anonymous Patrick Story Portland, OR : 3:28 PM ET
We use more than 60% of the worlds energy! That's so unfair! We need to seriously learn how to conserve! It's a huge problem in the United States and people need to educate themselves!

Global Warming = bad thing
Posted By Anonymous deepa, Buffalo, NY : 7:23 PM ET
I grew up in hurricaine country, coastal GA. Every year, we were without power for a week or more at a time. In the eastern KY mountains, way up our hollow, we would lose power with heavy wet snow falls. We routinely kept bottled water, canned goods, and, in snow country, kerosene heaters. Yes, our family has "camped out" in the kitchen more than once.
Point: Who's responsible for me? That's easy, the guy that sits on my tookus.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Williston, ND : 8:42 PM ET
In this instance, I suspect that the delay in restoration of power has more to do with the specific power company than the general "powers that be." I live just south of St. Louis on the Illinois side, but a rural electric cooperative supplies our power. We sat without power for only 17 hours, whereas Ameren residents around St. Louis lost it for days (some still don't have it back). A similar situation occurred after a huge storm this past summer. We lost power for 12 hours, while some Ameren customers went for more than a week without it. In 2003 and 2004, Ameren acquired two Illinois-based power companies, and perhaps it has bitten off more than it can chew.
Posted By Anonymous Lauri, Columbia, IL : 8:04 AM ET
Power companies and telephone companies should bury their lines. This would not only protect the lines during foul weather but beautify spaces by eliminating power poles. Also, it would save trees. Also, it would create jobs. This is what is done in Europe.
Posted By Anonymous johnapril, Indianapolis, IN : 8:19 AM ET
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