Commentary

printed 10/19/2018

With more than a month left in hurricane season, and on the heels of Hurricane Michael, whose visit earlier this month wreaked havoc across the South, one thing should be apparent, and it’s not just how to deal with the devastation of blown-away houses, deadly flooding, flying debris and downed trees.

No, what we should see, but still overlook, is how susceptible to failure our electric supply system is every time a storm of any significance inflicts itself on us. It makes no difference whether it’s winter or summer, every major weather event that occurs over populated areas these days seems to produce headlines that say, “2.5 million without power.”

That’s what Hurricane Michael did, and, as of Monday, 241,000 people were still without electricity. But that’s nothing as compared to Hurricane Irma in September 2017, when the best anyone could do was guess that some 10 million people lost electricity at some point.

As for winter storms, the Halloween Blizzard of 2011 cut power for 3.2 million residences and businesses in the northeast.

And you know what we can do when there’s no electricity? Virtually nothing. Financial activities stop, communications fail, computer-connected worlds collapse, food spoils, and the lights go out.

Yet, in all the storm planning and protective measures individuals, businesses and government might have under consideration, not much seems to be directed to figuring out how to protect our increasingly vulnerable power networks from going down and leaving us in the dark for days, weeks, or even longer.

It just seems strange that maintaining power in even extreme circumstances is not a national security issue, especially considering that violent weather has been occurring with increasing frequency.

Some will say climate change is causing that, and others will say it’s the natural cycle of things, but arguing over why it’s happening does nothing to address the need to protect the transmission of power, one of the few things we can’t do without.

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