Power outages, common sense and turnip trucks


The turnip truck

Disclaimer: I worked for an electric utility for 25 years. It was composed of people like me who worked hard to make the right decisions for the customers and the environment staying within the constantly changing, highly regulated laws. The opinion expressed here is my own. I was not paid by anyone. Oh yes, I love trees and hate to see them cut down or pruned into stupid shapes like mushrooms and footballs.

Some of you may remember that we (we meaning the east coast) had some bad storms over the last couple of years that left people without electricity for days or weeks. I was out for 26 hours and it was sheer hell. Life as I knew it stopped. I couldn’t do anything. My house got cold, my food got warm and I got cranky.

Some people were out for 2 weeks or more. The local normal average seemed to be about 5 to 7 days.

Our local utility was overwhelmed with storm work. Everyone was working long hours. They imported workers from other utilities to help out. It must have cost a fortune. Part of the problem was that the storms brought down many trees and with the trees came the lines. You can’t just string up the line, first you have to clear the trees. That takes time.

Am I making sense so far?

Back in the 80s or so, the electric utility had made the decision to cut the budget on right-of-way tree trimming. In hindsight, it wasn’t a good idea. There was a lot of budget cutting so I am not going to make judgments now. Hindsight is always 20-20.

The bad news is that trees grew and people forgot about the concept of right-of-way and easements.

Back to now. People bellyached pretty loud and clear about the outages not only to the utility but to the state Public Utility Commission. The utility made a commitment to restore big bucks to tree trimming to improve the reliability of the electricity. Everyone applauded.

That is until they started trimming trees. Of course people wanted the trees trimmed, just not the ones next to their property. Did you notice I said “next to?” You see over the past 20 to 30 years people took the liberty to plant trees, big trees, in utility right-of-ways. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Trees growing in the right-of-way areas get cut down.

Why did they plant them there in the first place?

Some people would plant a vegetable garden in the right of way so they didn’t have to dig up their own grass. That’s harmless but some people moved to planting trees. Big evergreen trees.

It made their yard bigger.

It gave them privacy.

It gave the kids shade for their plastic colored toys that are always at the end of the yard.

Some people may have bought the house with the trees already planted by the former owners. Here’s the thing. If it ain’t on your property, you don’t have control.

There has been an uproar about this in my area. Normally I don’t blog about controversial things but this is just stupid. One woman said her children were being adversely affected.

Did she fall off a turnip truck? Are our kids so fragile?

Good grief! I can’t say trees contributed much to my childhood one way or the other. Perhaps she’s looking for a settlement so her child can have long-term therapy or go to summer camp.

I don’t have a right-of-way easement on this property but I have had them in the past. The conditions were always that you plant (anything) at your own risk. What is so hard about that concept?

And yes, I do feel sad about the pruning of trees in yards and on the streets. We have to stop planting large-scale trees under power lines. There are alternatives.

Rant over. Normal programming will return.

20 thoughts on “Power outages, common sense and turnip trucks

  1. The other solution would be to bury the lines underground like they do in the UK. Less ugly poles, more trees and no power outs because you don’t have to fix the lines over and over again each year, each storm.


    • We have a mix of that here but some of the older housing developments still have overhead distribution lines. The larger transmission lines are all overhead. I am lucky to be in a development with underground wires but we still get outages when the lines feeding the substations go down. Thanks for stopping by.


  2. This is a well versed rant. The company I work for also deals with easements and public rights of ways. I’m sorry but I’ve never encountered more entitled and ill-informed people than those who planted beautiful flowering trees RIGHT in the ROW where the work has to be done — geez.

    On the flip side, before I worked in that industry, I was just as ill-informed.

    See – your rant was really a Public Service Announcement 🙂

    Great job !!


  3. Oh boy, this is a terrific post and an even better rant. Entitlement reins everywhere. There’s the attitude that there are rules but they don’t apply to me. I love the part about those Post-Treematic Stress ndrome that those kids must be suffering from. You rock!


  4. People are ridiculous. Being adversely affected by a tree that has been cut down. If they were in the tree when it was cut down, but otherwise, it’s time to learn how to adjust to the world. After living without power for 4 days during the October 2011 snow storm and 8 days after Hurricane Sandy, the power company needs to do what they can to keep the power running or else we’ll all be adversely affected.


  5. We have the same problem here. So the city decided not to cut trees down but to “top” them. People still not happy because now the trees aren’t pretty. As my mother used to say, “Give some people a million dollars and they will complain if it’s wrinkled.”


  6. The complainers may want to portray themselves as helping the environment + kids, but the reality is that their property value is going down because they did something stupid. Plant trees where they belong and none of this would be happening. Plant trees where they don’t belong– and well, you get a mess on your hands. Duh.


  7. Oh, oh, oh, I love this one! I work for a municipality and I deal with this sort of thing all the time! And you cannot get through to them no matter how many ways you try to explain it. There are worse things in life. Just plant another tree, and this time ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY, and of course not under any power lines. And this was my rant for the day.


  8. A real dilemma. I too love trees, but I love electricity more. On the other hand, if it’s a really old landmark tree, I would be willing to suffer. Bring around the turnip truck please. This was a good rant. 🙂


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