Posted by Deliverator on December 17th, 2006
Silverfir is back, after having been down for a few days due to a prolonged power failure due to a huge windstorm that whipped through here two nights ago. Here in my area of Bellevue, we lost power for 49 hours. There was considerable property damage in the immediate area, with several nearby houses crushed by falling pine trees. We have two giant pines overlooking our house, and watched them swaying Thursday night with grim foreboding. One of them had several quite large branches fall off and hit another house across the fence from us, but we incurred no damage ourselves. The branches all ripped off from one side of the tree, leaving it very unbalanced, so I am somewhat concerned that another strong wind storm could really torque it good and cause it to fall. Hopefully we will have another 12 years till the next big wind storm in which to deal with it.
I am kinda surprised that Silverfir is back this quickly, as it is physically situated (at Ryan’s parent’s house) in a much more wooded area than ours and one that is rural enough that I figured it would get short shrift from the power company. There has been a lot of discussion on the news these last few days (which I listened to courtesy of a battery powered radio) about Puget Sound Energy‘s handling of the storm’s aftermath.
From what I can gather, PSE has drastically cut back on the number of linemen in recent years in favor of joint support agreements with other utility companies. This lead to a severe shortage of workers in the immediate aftermath of the storm. PSE’s spin-doctors made a big deal about “we are bringing in EXTRA workers from as far as Kansas.” The flipside is that they were so understaffed that they had to send to as far as Kansas to get workers. It is a long drive from Kansas, folks and the passes were closed at times. Seatac airport was also closed at time, due to problems with radar systems and sporadic power outages. From what I heard on the radio, even several days after the storm they had fewer boots on the ground than prior to their downsizing efforts. I also believe that this downsizing also impacted their ongoing maintenance efforts. I can recall several times prior to the storm seeing power lines in Bellevue overhung with branches and thinking “that sure looks like an accident waiting to happen.” I drove by several of those spots yesterday and found….downed power lines.
Another criticism I have heard repeated is the perceived order in which PSE responded to the widespread outages. Commercial shopping districts such as Factoria and Bellevue Square all had their power restored prior to neighboring residential communities. I have a hard time sympathizing with the plight of Kemper Freeman and holiday shoppers when people have and may still die due to lack of heating, lack of medicine, or even their own stupidity in attempting to run a generator indoors.
This may just be a matter of perception, but I feel these issues all bear looking into in depth after this is all behind us. While I am not in principle against entrusting vital public services to a private, profit seeking entity, I am against seeking to maximize profit at the expense of the quality of service being offered. Incorporation at it’s best should be about gathering people and resources together to achieve a social beneficial goal, which could not be achieve through the efforts of individuals or small groups. All too frequently, modern corporations (or at least corporate governors/major shareholders making the decisions) seem to have lost sight of the “Spirit of Service” in favor of short sighted profiteering.