Take Us Underground, Please.

The outrage that many locals feel towards Entergy after last week and weekend’s power failure is justified, I feel. “Hurricane” Isaac, was just barely a storm, barely a Cat 1 hurricane.  Most of us were without power from Tuesday morning when the wind started blowing through Sunday night: five days without power, thousands of dollars (probably hundreds of thousands of dollars) of food lost in non-functioning refrigerators and freezers. Lots of human suffering; there was even an elderly man who died from a heat stroke because he didn’t have electricity. I’m not downplaying all the poor folks who flooded because of Isaac. That’s a whole different subject. I know how devastating it is to get water in your house and car (been there, done that); it’s horrible. But let’s just discuss the power outage.

From a business standpoint, who knows how many millions of dollars were lost by local businesses because they had no power? OffBeat lost literally an entire week of work; our magazine was printed, but delivered late because the shipper couldn’t communicate with the warehouse, which was closed because of the lack of power. In a random query of the businesses on Frenchmen Street, I received estimates of losses ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, even $50,000 due to loss of business, food that had to be discarded, etc. The worst sufferers who can stand it the least are the musicians and hourly workers in these businesses and elsewhere in the hospitality industry who depend on their pay, who got none because of power outages. That’s something to consider.

When we came back from Katrina, it was wonderful that we were able to work in a temporary office in the French Quarter because there was power there. I always wondered why the Quarter had power, and figured (like a lot of New Orleanians) why the Quarter only was back up and functional—I heard grumbling “the city doesn’t want to lose the tourist business, so they get that running first!”

I think it’s probably something a little more different than wanting to keep the tourists happy: the electrical utilities in the French Quarter are underground. Most of the rest of the city has poles with wires. This certainly makes the city much uglier; I look around the city and it would make such an extreme difference in the way the city appears, and of course, it would probably solve the hurricane (I mean, strong wind) issues that knock out electrical grid every time a gust of wind comes up.  In our Frenchmen Street offices, our electricity goes out at the drop of a hat, storm or no storm. If doesn’t need to be raining, or windy. Sometimes our power just dies. Does that mean some bird clipped a power line on a sunny day? It’s ridiculous. I can’t tell you how frightening it is to be at deadline, ready to go to press, and your power goes out. Not just for a minute. But until the next day. What is this, a third-world country? Oh yeah, I forgot…

Wires...and none. What a difference! And we still have lights when a storm comes our way. (Photo on left by Amanda Summerlin)

Yes, it would cost a lot of money, but surely Entergy should be held accountable for the significant amount of damage that’s done to the city, its citizens, businesses and commerce every time we have to endure a power outage. A letter in today’s T-P pointed out what happens in other areas with buried utilities. And oh my goodness, the city would look so much better (thanks to Amanda Summerlin’s website and lovely photos of New Orleans city streets).

 

  • J. Meyer

    It sounds like you’re a little huffy about being with electricity for 5 days…..you aren’t alone in that boat. I was out 5 days in Baton Rouge (Entergy) and for Gustav I was out a full 2 weeks. I wasn’t so lucky to stay in Hotel Monteleone. I stayed in a sweatbox, but I lost some water weight. lol

  • J. Meyer

    It sounds like you’re a little huffy about being without electricity for 5 days. I was without electricity for 5 days in Baton Rouge (Entergy) for Isaac and out 2 full weeks for Gustav. I didn’t have Hotel Monteleone as a backup. I was in a sweatbox the whole time. Lost a lot of water weight though. lol

  • Les

    We have the same problem here in Baltimore. Politicians and some newspaper reporters are starting the “bury the power lines” chant. That will never happen according to Constellation Energy. The real reason why we go without power for 3,5 or 7 days is the “bottom line”. These energy Co.’s have cut their workforce in half to make more $$ for stockholders.

  • Hugh

    I’m sure that your electric provider can take lines underground at a substantial cost to you and customers. It won’t be done for free and they are not obligated to provide this service to you. It’ll take years to complete and tremendous interruption to roadway traffic due to the excavation required to bury the lines. You’ll have interruptions to gas, water, sewer, phone and anything else buried over the years during the process. When trees blow over during the next hurricane, root systems will pull up whatever is in the way. When underground outages occur, they are most often much longer to repair than ovehead …… gotta dig everything up to make the repair ….. that is once the fault is found. All that said …. take some responsibilty for yourself, have a back-up plan for your business.

  • Meredith Ramsey

    Good article. Of course, I think that the money should be invested. But I know it won’t, so I will keep on living in this City that I have a love/hate relationship with…and just deal!

  • Meredith Ramsey

    Good article. Of course, I think that the money should be invested. But I know it won’t, so I will keep on living in this City that I have a love/hate relationship with…and just deal!

  • concertjoe

    I live in a poor rural area & suffer from inadequate, antiquated electrical grid. Only recently received poor high-speed internet (govt-funded). This country needs massive infrastructure overhauls. It would create good jobs. Too bad we’re broke from war & greed.

  • concertjoe

    I live in a poor rural area & suffer from inadequate, antiquated electrical grid. Only recently received poor high-speed internet (govt-funded). This country needs massive infrastructure overhauls. It would create good jobs. Too bad we’re broke from war & greed.

  • Tom Jacobsen

    Jan,
    While Entergy got rave reviews from the Feds (DOE) for their promptness in dealing with the ‘cane, I agree with you about the UGLY above-ground power poles. (I would be happy to email you pics of 4 downed poles in our neighborhood in Mid-city, doubtless contributing to our power outage and defitely posing a serious threat to the inhabitants of the houses on which those poles fell.) Is it Entergy or the city that is responsible for the erection of above-ground poles? They are clearly out of the 19th century.