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July 11, 2012

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It's interesting to look at this post in light of the preceding rehash of the argument over whether money has any effect on elections. Clearly it does, and clearly it's not just the elections that suffer for it.

Damn, I never even heard about the blackout. I've been convinced since the Republican convention that the media are manufacturing a "horse race" for ratings, though. I don't believe the polls, I don't think it's close.

I don't think you're being cynical enough. There can't be an "Obama's Katrina" because the press want Obama to win. Simple as that. All sorts of things that ought to explode across the headlines barely get a flicker of coverage because of that. Not just lousy response to natural disasters. Fast and Furious. The AG being held in contempt. Open microphone accidents and diplomatic disasters.

The media are in the tank for Obama. Maybe not burrowing though the bottom of the tank yet, to the annoyance of many liberals, but in the tank.

I suppose the hundreds of dead bodies lying or floating in the streets for days, and the police shooting at people trying to flee the disaster, may also be some significant differences, but you're right. It's almost certainly TEH LIE-BERAL MEDIA!!11!!1!1!!11

Plenty of dead bodies involved in Fast and Furious, Phil. Perhaps their swarthy color renders them invisible to you?

As for the disaster in New Orleans, pretty nasty, that. Nagin should never live it down.

Plenty of dead bodies involved in Fast and Furious

In order to comply with the Slarti-Theorem, please provide an exact count.

Secretariat...greatest race horse evah!

I heard some things about cannibalism in the DC suburbs, but for some reason the liberal news media won't report on it.

My favorite horse race is the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, although Secretariat's Belmont run is without question the stuff of legend.

I was here in the blackout area. Although, thankfully, I only lost power for a few hours, some of my friends and coworkers (and some businesses) were without power for a week. One friend had a tree land on her house. This is the latest in what seem to be progressively worse storms. A couple of years ago, a storm came through where a friend's house was demolished, and another friend's truck. Everyone I knew, including myself, lost many trees and had some house damage from the storm.

I did hear about the recent storm on the news though. I don't think it was the subject of talking heads discussion, but it was certainly in the major papers and on NPR. Obviously, infrastructure is one issue that it brings up, but the one most on my mind is global warming. These storms are getting to be frequent occurrences. That didn't used to be the case. It's scary out there.

Frankly, this is the only reason I can think of for news organizations to be focusing obsessively on a topic that is just not that interesting, with the same old heads talking over and over and OVER, when a dramatic human interest story is happening in their own neighborhood.

If this were true, there would have been equally limited coverage of Osama bin Laden's demise. There wasn't. The president was in the media nonstop.

When the Deepwater Horizon went down, it got a lot of media play and the president took a major hit. Justifiably so. He had no idea where to even begin and we learned that speeches are no substitute for action.

Covering this particular disaster would reveal a lot of people not at all happy with the response. Questions would be raised: why aren't the feds doing more?

You know, the kinds of questions that were raised after Katrina. None of these questions would be good for the president.

Here's a fact of life: when the wind blows long enough and hard enough, tree branches break and trees are uprooted and if a power line gets in the way, the lights go out.

In 2008, when Ike hit Houston, my office lost power for a week and our home for two weeks. A lot of people had the same experience.

There are only so many linemen (linepersons?), so many bucket trucks and they can only do so much in a given amount of time.

Whining about infrastructure that isn't fully nature resistant is like whining about drought and ensuing wildfires (what many of us in Texas experienced last summer, with very little in the way of federal assistance, particularly as the problems were unfolding).

Here's another fact about nature: during a prolonged drought, particularly in coastal areas, salt-infused sediment builds up on powerlines, switches and insulators, which are mounted on wooden poles such that the wire is on the insulator which is mounted to the pole with a steel bracket. When the sediment level reaches point X, the sediment acts as a conductor transferring power from the line to the pole over the steel bracket. The result is that the pole catches on fire and the downstream customers get their lights turned out.

It's part of life.

It was BS to blame Bush for the Katrina fall out. It would be equally BS to blame Obama for the fact of the disaster. It's a fair question to ask: what is he doing about it?

But, that question isn't being asked. Nor will it be.

So, it's about the election, but not in the way Doc S suspects. It's way more straightforward.

Let's put some of the unemployed to work building duct banks for underground power lines, if that's how you feel about it, McKinney. Win-win!

I depend on Pat Robertson for my weather reports.

He was on the scene for the tornadoes in the Midwest this last March:

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/pat-robertson-if-enough-people-were-praying-god-would-have-stopped-the-tornadoes/

(paint link, control C, then control V in the little browser box above .... or pray for a link)

He asks, vis a vis the tornadoes, why anyone would build a house where a tornado might hit, which is a question the wicked witch of the East and Dorothy's real estate agent have been asking for years, not to mention god-botherers in the heartland and their bizarro brother libertarians everywhere.

One might wonder too why God in his infinite jest doesn't more precisely target gay real estate exclusively and leave good boys and girls alone to fiddle about the right way.

Robertson has been mum thus far on the storm and blackouts, so far as I can tell.

Maybe they came too close to Norfolk.

As a liberal, I'll take the fall for the entire fast and furious body count, if libertarians, strict constructionists, the NRA and their sister fascists, gun purveyors along the southern border, and their colleagues in the international weapons trade will take the fall for their share of the body count (big piles of dead f*ckers) in the Mexican drug wars all these years.

I concede that the private sector does a much better job of supplying product to the market than government. In fact, if the government would get out of the way with its busybody paperwork and background checking and let American private weapons merchants operate freely along the border, you'd be able to see the pile of bodies in central Mexico from Sarah Death Palin's house in Alaska.

All of us are complicit accessories before and after the fact in murder.

By the way, I'm way out West and have been back East during the interim and read the mainstream press and sample the broadcast media and what deep hidey hole are people in that they don't know about the storm, the blackouts, fast and furious, the Holder contempt holding, etc?

Good theory on the media's being in the tank for political money, however.

The financial crisis in Europe has been front and center too.

Let's put some of the unemployed to work building duct banks for underground power lines, if that's how you feel about it, McKinney.

That won't work either. It's cost prohibitive, particularly running an underground line to every home and getting power to suburban and rural settings.

If this were true, there would have been equally limited coverage of Osama bin Laden's demise. There wasn't. The president was in the media nonstop.

How does this follow? Weren't we much, much further from the general election at the time, and don't you think there's a little more eyeball magnetism to motive the media when it comes to ANYTHING involving the ultimate boogey, Osama bin Laden, let alone his death at the hands of US Navy Seals.

DC blackout v Katrina:

there are more than 1,800 important differences.

up to 100,000,000,000 differences by another measure.

It's cost prohibitive, particularly running an underground line to every home and getting power to suburban and rural settings.

Why? Is there a shortage of workers, concrete and PVC conduit? Those are the real costs. (We'll get the copper back after taking the old lines down.)

But I was half kidding, anyway, and don't want to jack the thread any further.

during a prolonged drought, particularly in coastal areas, salt-infused sediment builds up on powerlines, switches and insulators, which are mounted on wooden poles such that the wire is on the insulator which is mounted to the pole with a steel bracket. When the sediment level reaches point X, the sediment acts as a conductor transferring power from the line to the pole over the steel bracket. The result is that the pole catches on fire and the downstream customers get their lights turned out.

Interesting. Do you have a cite? I'm not saying your wrong, but the mechanism that you describe does seem rather odd to me (I'm an EE who lives in and grew up in a coastal area).

The media are in the tank for Obama

of course they are. you can tell because they're challenging Romney on his innumerable lies.

there are more than 1,800 important differences.

up to 100,000,000,000 differences by another measure.

No one said the impact was the same, just that the media coverage and, more importantly, the focus is not the same.

If you are out of power for a week and it's really hot, things are very bad for you.

If you've been flooded and lost your home, things are very bad for you.

Regardless of who is in office.

During the Katrina coverage, I wondered how the media would treat a weather or other disaster if the administration were different. My question has been answered.

Is there a shortage of workers, concrete and PVC conduit?

Digging up Earth is just astonishingly expensive. Especially Earth that is covered with streets. It is much much cheaper to do so before development happens which is why a lot of the towns near me have a rule that requires buried lines for new development while allowing existing homes to keep their above-ground lines.

The media are in the tank for Obama

Cite please?

Never mind, I've got one, but it contradicts what you wrote.

bin Laden's dead? I missed that one. How did it happen? Did he go down on the Deepwater Horizon?

I must have been reading Redstate and watching FOX News exclusively that week.

All I saw there was that Moe Lane's kitty was stuck in a tree the entire week and he had to call the fire department, but the whole deal turned out to be an ambush to lure the fireman into an argument about their pensions.

No one said the impact was the same, just that the media coverage and, more importantly, the focus is not the same.

why on earth should the coverage be the same if the situations to be covered are not?

Do you have a cite? I'm not saying your wrong, but the mechanism that you describe does seem rather odd to me (I'm an EE who lives in and grew up in a coastal area).

Here's a link: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2011/08/25/power-problems-in-texas-city-lead-to-refinery-flares/. It happens that I am involved in litigation in which power outages caused by this phenomena led to power washing operations that resulted in a de-energized intersection which then resulted in a multiple fatality, multiple injury accident when both drivers failed to treat the intersection as a 4 way stop (one vehicle had 16 occupants, just to round out the picture). It was through this process that I learned of the phenomena. It's very rare. My client is the company that was hired to power wash thousands of power poles. One of the crew members researched to see if anyone has done this kind of work before. He found an outfit in California and one in Europe (I can't remember where) that had some knowledge of how to remedy the situation. The normal process, if there is sufficient rain, is that rain rinses and cleans the conductors.

My client is also a line construction and maintenance company and, through other cases, I've learned a lot more about power transmission than I ever would have otherwise.

why on earth should the coverage be the same if the situations to be covered are not?

It's the virtual absence of any suggestion that the president and this administration have failed to respond to this widespread crisis whereas the criticism of the Bush administration for failing to respond was virtually instantaneous, and mostly stupid.

Death tolls in hurricanes are reduced when people evacuate. NO didn't evacuate. Houston/Galveston and the Texas gulf coast (and in Mississippi during Ike) evacuated the low lying areas. The death toll was minimal.

Never mind, I've got one, but it contradicts what you wrote.

Your link doesn't prove your point. When the news is mostly bad, the coverage tends to be negative.

why on earth should the coverage be the same if the situations to be covered are not?

because Both Sides Do It
hadn't you heard that, cleek? it's been in all the papers.

--TP

It's the virtual absence of any suggestion that the president and this administration have failed to respond to this widespread crisis...

which is several orders of magnitude smaller than Katrina.

you're mad because the media won't freak out over a blackout the way they freaked out over the deaths of 1,800 people, and $100,000,000,000 worth of damages, including the utter devastation of a large part of a large city.

yeah, the media is biased.

Digging up Earth is just astonishingly expensive. Especially Earth that is covered with streets.

Thanks, Turb. I'm an EE, too. I manage major capital construction projects, and I know this. Sending tanks, trucks, planes, helicopters and a hundred thousand men across the sea is also astonishingly expensive. (Not that I have to tell you that.) Somehow, we managed to do that.

But, again, I was half kidding.

There are "low-information" voters ( aka idiots ) who need to know who is going to win because they don't want to vote for the loser - and thus be tainted by the loser-ish-ness. So to them, the horserace is really all there is.

Running home power underground is not a problem, but I would guess that as the voltage goes up, so do problems involved with burying lines, including line loss.

Running home power underground is not a problem, but I would guess that as the voltage goes up, so do problems involved with burying lines, including line loss.

It's very expensive to run an underground line from a trunk to each and every house.

It happens that I am involved in litigation in which power outages caused by this phenomena led to power washing operations that resulted in a de-energized intersection

Fascinating stuff, thanks for explaining McTex. I'm still confused by the idea of having this transfer happen with wooden poles since I thought we never mixed unshielded lines with wooden poles, but perhaps you're talking about higher voltage transmission lines with metal trusses instead? Or maybe the "no unshielded wires on wooden poles" rule is a local one that isn't used in TX (lots of vegetation here that
would constantly short out unshielded lines)?

When the news is mostly bad, the coverage tends to be negative.

If the media were in the tank for Obama, I'd expect they just wouldn't cover bad news and would hype up whatever good news is happening. I thought that's exactly what you were asserting: the media hyped up OBL's death and ignored the storm story. Were you asserting something different?

I'm curious if you think your claim that the media is in the tank for Obama is falsifiable. If so, what sort of evidence do you think could falsify it?

I'm still confused by the idea of having this transfer happen with wooden poles since I thought we never mixed unshielded lines with wooden poles, but perhaps you're talking about higher voltage transmission lines with metal trusses instead?

The line sits on an insulator. The bottom of the insulator is attached to a steel mounting bracket. The steel bracket is mounted on the pole. The sediment builds up on the insulator, creating a conductive material on the surface of the insulator that bypasses the insulator and carries the electricity directly to the pole, producing ignition.

I'm curious if you think your claim that the media is in the tank for Obama is falsifiable. If so, what sort of evidence do you think could falsify it?

I am never clear what is meant by falsifiable and non-falsifiable. To me, it--media bias--is a debate that will never be resolved. I see bias in the media, and I see it without someone writing a book about it telling me it is the case. Others see it differently. Doc S writes above that the motive is money. My take: the motive is different.

It's very expensive to run an underground line from a trunk to each and every house.

Underground power is VERY common in Florida.

Underground power is VERY common in Florida

I would imagine, given the frequency of hurricanes, that it is cost effective there.

"I would imagine, given the frequency of hurricanes, that it is cost effective there."

Yes. The thought of having your power grid go down every storm season* (i.e., more or less annually) does tend to focus the mind as to where resources will be expended.

*Climate change. There, I said it.

There's so much wrong with the corporate media that it is hard to know where to begin.

The horse race coverage, with the implication that policy doesn't matter, just the "thrill" of competition, is part of the problem.

There's also the "he said/she said"with the implcation that all opinions are equal and facts don't exist.


And then there's the ignoring of real problems to focus on the fad frenzy of the week.

Take the weather. Not only did the corporate media ignore the disaster in the DC area, but they have for years now ignored the connection between our increasingly disasterous weather and global climate change.

And another thing! The corporate media plays "let's pretend" about the way they chose to create stories and the extent to which they either collaborate with the rightwing noise machine or allow themselves to be manipulated by the noise manchine.

I don't watch any TV "news". I don't even watch the supposedly intellectual Sunday morning shows like "Meet the Republicans".

There's more than incompetence involved. It's deliberate willful incompetence.

I live in New Jersey. There are no aerial lines on my street, but it's a 10-year-old neighborhood. Just about everwhere else you go, lines are on poles. But there's a transformer on the corner of my lawn. Every fifth or sixth house has one. Getting from that transformer to the house is the easy part, mostly through grass and dirt.

Anyway, the question at hand, I would think, is where in the distribution the power outages were caused. If it's thousands of people without power for weeks in reasonably urbanized areas, the problem probably isn't downstream of the lowest level transformers delivering 240/120 VAC to individual homes, unless lots and lots of individual residential feeds were taken out all over the place. (Maybe they were, and that entails lots and lots of individual repairs, as opposed to one major repair higher up in the network that restores power to many homes in one shot.)

Generally, utilities prioritize repairs after big events based at least in part on how many services can be restored by a given repair, which is why rural customers are usually without power the longest, because they are on circuits with the fewest individual services.

For at least 35 years, all new development in Colorado has buried their power, at least in urban and suburban areas.

MckT, question. Could you point me in direction of specific media (news coverage, not editorial space) that you use regularly and find relatively unbiased, so I can read or view it?

I say "relatively", given the Heisenburg Principle.

I'm pretty sure I could put out a news blog or a newspaper that would present nothing but pristine, empty white space .. not a syllable .... but with only a comment or letter to the editor section, which would fill up with opposing and passionate opinions regarding the right-wing and left-wing in-the-tankness of the white space.

I notice the sports media, surrounding baseball's All-Star Game is now concocting a "rivalry" between two good-looking rookie outfielders, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

I suspect this "rivalry" is news to the two of them, but is rather and merely a media confection for the shouters on the sports shows to bloviate about to gain eyeballs and eardrums for advertisers, the First Amendment not specifying, even with a comma, that if you don't have something useful to contribute, then STFU.

Which is lucky for me ..... and Brett. It was nice of the Founders to think of the two of us, if you can keep it.

Here's the difference, however, in today's poisoned but lucrative reality show atmosphere (sticking with the sports analogy) and the old days when the Mantle-Mays-Snider "rivalries", for example, were played up.

Mantle-Mays-Snider would just smile and shrug, being gentleman with bigger fish to fry.

I suspect either one or both Trout and Harper (I predict Harper, given his dissing righteous mouth thus far) will take the bait, and perhaps even be paid to take the bait by Murdochians in the media, and we might get a cage match.

Maybe they'll rise above. Maybe the 35-year old journeyman utility guy in the dugout, #25 on the roster, will take them aside and mention to each of them, uncle-wise, that if they engage in that sort of media horsesh*t and diss the other phenom, that he, the veteran, still making baseline salary, will start a rivalry with the two of them that involves the disabled list for both.

Then the veteran will be cut for messing with sensitive capitalist egos.

"Meet the Republicans"

Laura wins the thread.

That particular piece of media bias is incontrovertible.

MckT, question. Could you point me in direction of specific media (news coverage, not editorial space) that you use regularly and find relatively unbiased, so I can read or view it?

Count, I don't watch much news, but when I do, it's usually CNN. I see plenty of unbiased, individual reports in print and, on the rare occasions when I watch TV, on the news. It's the overall thrust of what is covered, what isn't and how it is reported.

Bias perception is highly subjective and is informed by my outlook and anyone else's who holds an opinion on the subject. No one is going to change anyone else's mind.

I think the overarching bias is right where Doc puts it - money (via sensationalism/eyeballs).

The Koch brothers and their associates alone are planning to spend nearly $400 million, part of a $1BILLION GOP Super-Pac drive. Thanks to Citizens United, the money will be *crazy*.
Emphasis mine.

So here's the thing --- Citizen's United isn't the reason the Koch brothers and their associates will spend 400 million and it certainly didn't allow them to do so. Individual contributions of wealth to 3rd party groups were allowed before Citizen's United (see swift-boat veterans for anti-Kerrying) and this election cycle was always going to have billions of dollars poured into it. I know that Citizens United is bad, corporations aren't people, blahblahblah but I hate it when people hold up Citizen's United as opening up the floodgates for political spending. Political spending was already dramatically on the rise before CU and PACs would have always spent a billion+ per candidate in this POTUS election whether or not they were CU 'super' PACs or just the standard 527 or 501 groups.

The money was already there and always has been. Please don't fall into the hyperbole trap of 'omg-citizens-united-has-allowed-money-to-enter-politics-and-now-they're-buying-elections!'


(Quick source before I'm asked to cite one:
"The day before 'Citizens United,' corporations had the right to make unlimited contributions to issue advocacy," said Allison Hayward of the Center for Competitive Politics. "The one thing that's changed is specific advocacy [for candidates]… There would have been a lot of spending even if there hadn't been 'Citizens United.'"
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/vote-2010-citizens-united-responsible-record-election-campaign/story?id=11910807)

So why on earth would TV news not cover the story?

Dr. S, I think you are coming at this all wrong. Maybe this is the beginning of the (long overdue) demise of "if it bleeds, it leads" journalism.

That is something that cannot happen soon enough, if we are to restore some sense of reality to our perceptions of the world. Just think of having fewer people convinced that the world has become seriously more dangerous, crime much higher, etc., etc. since they were young -- strictly because they now get horror stories from across the cuntry (and around the world), rather than just if something happens locally.

the end of fear as the driving force of our world. It really would be something to celebrate!

Speaking of horse racing, I know enough to watch the Derby and follow along when a Triple Crown is in play, but that's about it. I'm old enough to remember Secretariat, and I never saw, and never expect to see, a horse dominate his competition so. But what was it about him that made him so great? Obviously, he proved in competition that he could run faster longer, but why was that so? Also, the Triple Crown races are for three-year-olds. Why is that? Is that when most race horses are at their peak? Would a four-year-old "defending champion" running one of those races again be outclassed, or have an unfair advantage, or what?

MckT wrote:

"Bias perception is highly subjective and is informed by my outlook and anyone else's who holds an opinion on the subject. No one is going to change anyone else's mind."

Does that mean that I can go back to bed for the week?

I notice in most public places and bars Fox News is the viewing of no choice, but despite that fact, I climb farther up my own impervious tree.

And speaking of "no one, I think, is in my tree ... it doesn't matter much to me", I notice the Putin Russian government is now blaming the Beatles at this late date for various social blights bequeathed by market freedoms.

I may have a vinyl copy of "Rubber Soul" they can burn which survived the 1966 bonfires in Waycross, Georgia and other totalitarian environs the last time the thick and ordinary took umbrage at the truth that the Fab Four and their music were and was and is more popular than Karl Marx and Pat Boone.

chicagojon: You're right of course. The lobster was cooked before the Supremes put their bibs on and started dipping us in drawn butter.

See ya next week.

Bring on the next guy.

I would imagine, given the frequency of hurricanes, that it is cost effective there.

Here in Central Florida, there was a 44-year period between 1960 and 2004 where the number of hurricanes was 0. That's a long time to wait for return on investment, I think.

No, I think the answer is more likely to be: intense thunderstorms. Which is something all of tornado alley is familiar with, I think.

Another possible answer: because it looks nicer. Believe it or not.

Another option to explain why they're so popular in Florida is that Florida has relatively young housing stock. Lots of places make buried cables mandatory for new development, so if a lot of your housing stock is relatively new, you're much more likely to have lots of buried cables.

Yes, that. Thanks, Turbulence.

When a subdivision goes in, it goes in pretty much all at once. Utilities are put in either underground or aboveground throughout the entire neighborhood. I've seen it go both ways, but wealthier neighborhoods tend to put their wires underground. All of the wires: telephone, cable TV, power.

it's all buried here in central NC, too.

All of the wires: telephone, cable TV, power.

Sure. Once you're digging, the marginal cost of sticking another wire in the ground is minimal, certainly worth avoiding the ugliness and vulnerability of overhead lines of any sort, even those providing less vital services than electrical power.

Even when adding fiber lines for Verizon Fios in my neighborhood well after everything else was built, they went underground. I'm sure they had to if they wanted to build that out, but they were still willing to do it. Of course, it was direct-bury cable, mostly in grass. Not a heavy lift.

I don't know what they did in neighborhoods that already had overhead lines. Now I'm curious about that.

Hey, wait, I'm going to Orlando in August, am I going to be killed by a thunderstorm or hurricane?

Once you're digging, the marginal cost of sticking another wire in the ground is minimal

That sort of assumes that they all go in the same hole/trench/conduit/tunnel/whatevs, which is for very good reasons* not the case here in central Florida. Also: multiple, varying points of entry to the neighborhood, and different service boxes for each utility.

*Extremely high water table, poor planning and coordination, and possible other factors unknown to me

Meh. I think coverage of "natural disasters" is way overblown. OMG! There's a hurricane in FL, tornadoes in the Midwest, the power went out after a thunderstorm! No sh1t.

Further, the DC storm case (full disclosure: I live in the District proper and went through the storm) is bad television, which I would argue accounts for the lack of coverage.

First, there is the already noted general lack of dead people (less than 20 last I saw, not that that should be taken lightly). Thus, there are not, e.g., dead bodies floating in the Potomac.

Second, there is no "general devastation," as you might see after a flood, hurricane, or bad tornado. Have trees fallen over, sometimes into houses and cars? Yes, but that's about it.

Third, and related, there is no "dramatic" video to play over and over and over. No rooftop helicopter rescues, no throngs of people wailing into the TV cameras for help, no vast scenes of destroyed buildings, etc.

Fourth, it's not like every single home, school, business, etc. within an X mile radius of the White House lost power. Yes that would have been truly epic and warranted substantial national press coverage. But...not so much (e.g., my neighborhood never lost power at all, and the same with several others). Thus, people could bunk with family and friends, or visit the local businesses to stay cool. Fun? No. But again, not very compelling national TV. Local? Yes, and they did.

"I think the overarching bias is right where Doc puts it - money (via sensationalism/eyeballs)."

Definitely. This is exactly why I'm not interested in the politicians and the 'news' companies being the only people with free speech rights 30 days before an election.

I should add, one reason to focus on the horse race is that the White House and every single congressional office/upper level cabinet office has a TV (and probably multiple TVs in many if not most instances) tuned into cable TV.

The networks know this and thus focus their attention accordingly (because, after all, what could be a more interesting subject than...me?)

I'm going to Orlando in August, am I going to be killed by a thunderstorm or hurricane?

Concentrate and ask again.

Florida is just about the lightning death capital of the world, but you're statistically dead safe from hurricanes. I think you're much more likely to be killed by lightning while riding a unicycle and playing a Jew's Harp here in Florida than you are to win the Lotto.

In other words, you really don't need to worry, other than take the usual care not to do anything stupid.

Also: multiple, varying points of entry to the neighborhood, and different service boxes for each utility.

Next to the transformer on my lawn is the cable TV enclosure and the telephone enclosure. Everything comes into my house at the same corner of my garage. Peas in a pod, they are.

But, if they are willing to put those all in separately, at different times(?) and following different paths, it supports my earier point that it isn't that last bit from the furthest downstream node to the individual users that is most costly.

no cannibals crossing the bridges over the Potomac to be met by armed vigilantes.

No diaspora into Texas

no unrescued terminal hospital patients hung out to dry with their patient monitors gone dead.

no Tacitus and other big swinging thinkers proposing the city should be abandoned to the swamps, completely and for good, though I suspect that proposal is coming soon, in which case Mitt Romney might find himself padding around the White House in waders, alone, begging: "My bought and paid for expensive kingdom for a rescue yacht, with onboard helipad, portable submarine, wet bar in every stateroom, and on deck golf course.

It's worth keeping an eye on the National Hurricane Center website, though, Phil. Which is not to say that a hurricane can't form from practically nothing, tear through Cuba, go through a couple of direction changes and a few days later wind up tearing a rapid swath up through a couple of hundred miles of Central Florida and wind up right over my house?

But it's unlikely.

In other words, you really don't need to worry, other than take the usual care not to do anything stupid.

I'm going to be there for a Star Wars fan convention, so I've arguably already done something stupid. YMMV.

I'm going to be there for a Star Wars fan convention

A side of Phil I've always suspected. ;)

Montgomery County in Maryland, where Gaithersburg is located, was hit especially hard by the storm. The main power provider in the county also happens to be Pepco. Pepco is locally notorious for having worse outages than neighboring utilities along with longer times to restore service; the company has been in hot water on this topic for at least the two years I've lived in Montgomery County. The company has been accused of skimping on maintenance like tree-trimming. In this particular storm it's been reported that Pepco brought in fewer out-of-state workers than neighboring utilities and had them work less overtime.

On a personal note, since I moved to Montgomery County two years ago I started carrying a flashlight on my keychain to ensure I have a light handy in case of an outage. It's paid off a few times.

We have a hand-cranked radio/flashlight and a few oil lamps squirreled away for just such emergencies. But when the power's out for days and your frozen goods have all spoiled, those things don't help quite so much.

Plus, we have our iPhones for the initial loss. They make serviceable flashlights for finding your way to the real flashlights.

One reason (for non-GOPsters) not to blame Obama for the blackout may be that he regularly calls for (federal) investments to repair/maintain/upgrade aging infrastructure but gets rebuffed by the opposition party and accused of planning to waste money that could get into tax cuts instead. Some cynics said that the passing at last of an infrastructure bill did not coincide coincidentally with the drawn-out blackout because some congressbeings were affected too.
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I see Obama getting blasted by some actual liberal media all the time. Even the commies at RT who in theory should worship him as their god keep the flamethrower on him for e.g. the broken promises on transparency, the excesses of the drone program, his hypocrisy on environmental issues (on some he gets worse grades than Dubya).
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I read some analysis that FOX would lose most, if Romney wins. Attacks on a Dem administration are always better for ratings (and faux credibility for 'truth to power') than having to defend a GOP president who makes a fool of himself on a regular base (for different reasons in Dubya and Mitt).

Were the lengthy power outages in New England last year (Irene and the freak October snowstorm) covered much nationally? They were of course covered locally. If the answer is no, I suppose that too is evidence of the media being in the tank for Obama, because clearly Obama runs CL&P.

People here were w/o power for over a week in some cases. CL&P took a lot of flack for it.

Also: Katrina was way worse. The problem wasn't making a big deal of the way the government handled Katrina. The problem was focusing the ire on the Feds alone and ignoring the city and state governments, which were even more (ir)responsible. I remember defending the Bush Administration at the time, actually.

...

My understanding of the math on underground lines is that it only really makes sense in new developments and otherwise in very particular spots, because tearing up existing infrastructure to replace it with (expensive) new infrastructure is, well, expensive. And underground lines aren't immune to problems, so it's not like you bury it and forget about it.

heckblazer is correct that Montgomery County was hit especially hard (the power was out in downtown Bethesda even, which is not exactly an impoverished area). Pepco is our power provider too and is notoriously bad, but within the last year they put up extra-tall power poles on our street (and trimmed trees), so I imagine that's why we had power through the latest storm, as we used to lose it all the time.

Slarti: But when the power's out for days and your frozen goods have all spoiled, those things don't help quite so much.

True dat. My wife has a rather large supply of self-pumped frozen breast milk for our younger son, to be used for the nanny and then exhausted when she weans him. Had that melted.... *shudder*

I forgot the footnote to my previous post. To call RT commie was meant tongue-in-cheek. As long as they do not talk about Russia I consider them pretty neutral (which of course makes them stinking red commie liberlas ;-) ).

Heh, we had the *exact same worry* over frozen breastmilk when Irene knocked out our power for 3 days. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't that big a deal (especially given that we were shifting over to mostly solidish food + some formula anyway at that point), but the emotional impact of losing what my wife had worked so damn hard to provide for our daughter (pumping while exhausted, pumping at work, you know how it goes) was... well, it's hard to recapture the feeling now, a year later.

We have a generator now. Our house was wired for one already, so it was just a matter of getting one. They're not that expensive - heck, the one I bought, as it turns out, is far more powerful than I can use (house wired up, yes, house fully wired up? No. Oops).

Our house was wired for one already, so it was just a matter of getting one. They're not that expensive - heck, the one I bought, as it turns out, is far more powerful than I can use (house wired up, yes, house fully wired up? No. Oops).

So where do you connect the generator? It's not at the main panel for the whole house?

There is a separate (smaller) panel. This panel has various circuits wired up to it, but not as much of the house as I thought. It is labeled, but not terribly well and I made some assumptions and we all know how that goes.

It's not a big deal. I paid a whopping $800 for the generator.

By the way, I want to add that I came to the exact same conclusion Dr. Science has recently. The best explanation for the "horse race" phenomenon is that the media will make the most money off a close election. Candidates and interest groups will spend more on ads, ratings will likely be up... all good for the bottom line.

What incentive, exactly, does the media have to say, basically "welp, this one ain't close folks."

Example: coverage of the GOP primaries. It was always going to be Romney. Always.

Does the smaller panel feed a completely separate set of wiring and outlets? Or is it a sub-panel that is normally fed from your main panel? If so, is there a transfer system that prevents you from mixing generator and utility power? (Sorry, just curious...)

It's connected to the main panel. You shut the main power off (or, in an outage, that's already done) and throw a switch on the generator panel that activates it instead of the normal panel.

It looks a lot like this:

http://www.generatorfactoryoutlet.com/gfo/products/30310A.asp?cagpspn=pla&gclid=CI-05cG6krECFbRa7Aodugcyig

Thanks, Rob. (You can't spell "geek" without "ee.")

Yeah, we looked into something like that, but what we actually did was something a lot simpler: we plugged in our refrigerator. And a few other things like fans, but mostly the refrigerator.

I've long considered what to do under an extended outage, but we've been lucky. Still, I think about just cooking everything in the freezer and somehow eating it all before it spoiled. Or feeding the neighbors with it.

After Charley, parts of Orlando were without power for a week or more. Lucky us: we shared a major subgrid with two grocery stores and were on the same transformer as one of them, and because of the importance of these stores, power was restored to those grids within 24 hours. One of these stores wound up being a major local rendezvous point for the huge number of local and out-of-state power trucks (IIRC, one store fed the power truck guys three meals a day, free of cost, for the better part of a couple of weeks).

So, we lucked out bigtime. Some friends that live about a mile south of us came to live with us for several days because their power was out that long. Some other friends holed up in their master bedroom, bought a window AC unit and ran it off their generator for (IIRC) something like 10 days.

Charley was a small hurricane, but major roads were impassible for a couple of days, and some minor ones for weeks. Our neighborhood roads were one-lane, because of all the debris stacked up on either side. Debris disposal went on for, literally, months. It's really hard to imagine how staggeringly difficult these things are to clean up after, unless you're there.

Hurricane Kate hit the Florida Panhandle in 1985 the weekend before Thanksgiving. I went down to Tallahassee with a couple of college friends for the holiday weekend, and the power was still out at my folks house until the day or so after Thanksgiving, 5-6 days total. Everywhere you went the sound of chainsaws was in the air. Luckily friends in the neighborhood already had power back so we could take hot showers before going to the big family meal in South Georgia.

On the trip down, about 30 miles north of Tallahassee huge numbers of pine trees were down on either side of the highway. I was having to explain to my friends how very not-normal the sight was. It brought to mind pictures I have seen of Siberian woods in the aftermath of the Tunguska event.

Cleek: it's all buried here in central NC, too.

It bloody isn't, you know. I sit here in Durham - about as central as you can get in NC - and look right out my window and see overhead power lines everywhere, including some that run through the branches of trees on our property.

Apparently Durham, otherwise a wonderful place to live - outstanding restaurants, the American Dance Festival, the Durham Bulls, Duke basketball, gorgeous trees, &c. - was built (infrastructurally) on the cheap, so not only are the power lines overhead, but there are no sidewalks on most of the streets (including ours).

And in big storms, we tend to lose power. Surprise!

Slarti,

Yeah, if you don't already have a transfer switch wired up like we had (the prior owner had it put in), then it's quite expensive because the switch + the electrician work to set it all up probably exceeds the price of the generator itself (unless you buy a Honda, which are ludicrously expensive). And, therefore, not really worth it. At that point, I figure, you either do what you did, or if you have the money you can just get a proper "standby" generator (runs on propane) and pay for the whole house to be wired up to it.

The big thing for us, though, is that with our setup we can run our well pump & furnace as well as the fridge/freezer. Plus the microwave. Not the range, though, which is slighly annoying (b/c the generator has the juice for it).

Why not the range, Rob?

My understanding was the big drivers for home generator requirements (in terms of overhead) were refrigerator and freezer kick-on current. Everything else is fairly straightforward how many appliances/lights at what current level kind of calculation.

The range is typically 40A at 240V, which means it might draw nearly as much as 10kW. If you've got a 10kW generator, you've got half again the power generation capacity that I had. Powering your heat pump if you have one can be just as demanding. If you have a gas or oil furnace and all you really need is to power the blower, you're probably sitting pretty with a smaller generator.

We had a power outage in Alabama where our fireplace was useless for heating because it was an insert, and the blower wouldn't run without power. So we got a generator; next time the power went out we were able to keep most of the house warm without running the furnace.

From what Rob wrote earlier, the range probably isn't wired into the sub-panel with the generator hook-up, but a circuit fed directly off the main panel.

It bloody isn't, you know. I sit here in Durham - about as central as you can get in NC - and look right out my window and see overhead power lines everywhere, including some that run through the branches of trees on our property.

ah. i suppose i was thinking about new-ish construction.

for example, our last house (north Raleigh, built late 80s), our current house (Apex, built early 00s) and currently-under-construction house (rural Pittsboro) all all have underground power/cable/phone.

our power goes out, too. which is super-annoying, since i can often see the steam plume from our nuke plant out the window. if i only had a long piece of wire!

...since i can often see the steam plume from our nuke plant out the window.

It's not steam, dammit! It's water vapor (like a nice, fluffy cloud).

And then generators don't help with some mighty storms like the Galveston flood

it's radioactive dragon breath, with little spots of condensed starstuff!

Yes, the range wasn't wired to the generator transfer switch. So even if our generator has the juice to run it, I can't.

Our range likely eats a lot of power, as it's one of those flat halogen ones. Which is probably why they didn't wire it up.

The generator I bought is, IIRC, 7500W/8250W (surge). Given what's wired up, it's more than enough. Probably double what I need. But it was cheap, so I don't really care.

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