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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Riverview: More Power to the People!


Everything had pretty much settled down in Riverview by Saturday afternoon.. Friday's snow was on the ground, everything was kind of quiet. Folks had spent plenty of time getting used to driving around in the snow and ice, and the focus shifted to what may be a white Christmas later in the week.

And then..... it happened.


"We were just sitting there, watching T-V late Saturday afternoon about 7 o'clock," says James Henderson of Carver Street in Riverview. "All of a sudden, the lights went out. They'd blinked a couple of times, but stayed on. We knew that some of the power was out around us, and we got concerned when ours blinked."

"Then, the lights went out, and stayed out."

Electricity had gone out in a two-square block area of Riverview, bordered by Dunbar Street, Douglass Street, and Louis Street. All of Carver Street from Douglass to Dunbar was also out. The Great Storm of 2009 that dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow last Friday night, had left its cruel Christmas gift on area transformers, power poles and power lines.


"When the power didn't come back on," Mr. Henderson says, "me and (wife) Cecilia started wondering what to do. We called around and every hotel and motel was booked up with the earlier people whose power was off. This home stays pretty warm, in fact, the temperature didn't drop below 60, so we decided to try and ride it out Saturday, piling blankets on the bed, plugging up any air leaks. We got along all right through Saturday night, and the snow outside with no power made everything real quiet."

"Sunday morning, we tried to find a hotel room, and we were lucky this time," he says. "Some people who were stranded along the roads had checked out, but other people who'd lost power were checking in and we were able to find a room at the Hampton Inn at the same time they did. We stayed overnight Sunday, and Monday morning we checked out with the reservation that we might be coming back if the power wasn't back on."

It wasn't.

By this time, American Electric Power was saying it was a slow go to get to all the affected areas, and that some folks might not have power back on until Christmas.

"So, there we were, back in the motel Monday night," Mr. Henderson says.

"It's funny how just those 2 blocks in Riverview were affected. Van across the street from us and your dad's house (the Sneed Jr. house) had power, and they've got power from a different line, right across the street."

Even the homegoing of our neighborhood friend, relative and classmate Clyde Releford had to be moved from Central Baptist to Shiloh Baptist, because Central had no electricity to heat the sanctuary.

Workers from A-E-P did finally get the power back on late Tuesday afternoon about 5 PM. People started slowly trickling back into their homes, trying to get heat pumps and heating and cooling units started back up. Some houses took longer to warm back up than others.

"The lowest it got in our house was 48 degrees," says Mr. Henderson. "When we had siding put on years ago, they put a thermal barrier around it. They didn't take the old siding off, and when the man put the air conditioning in, he recommended that we have more insulation put in the attic, and I told him, as soon as you get through, that's what we're gonna do. It has always made a difference in how warm the house gets in the winter and how cool it is in the summer. We've also got the insulated windows, too."

"I'd been wondering about homeowner's insurance and what it covers in a situation like this, and we thought, 'well maybe, they might call it an Act of God and no coverage for it.'"


We put Mr. Henderson's question to Nathan Vaughn, local agent for State Farm Insurance.

"There is homeowner's insurance for power interruptions," says Mr. Vaughn. "Folks need to make an accounting of what they had, make sure things are I-D'd, and what the value of those items might be. They also need to understand that insurance requires that they have a responsibility to protect their property as best they can, especially anything electronic. There's not a whole lot insurance can do about spoiled food from no electricity, but there's always the issue of pipes that froze up because no water had been flowing through them. When the power's out, there's also no heat to keep some inside pipes warm, and there might be the potential for pipes to develop leaks. We always advise people if they have to leave home during a power outage in very cold weather, to leave a trickle of water running, so the pipes won't freeze from no heat. Policy holders do have a responsibility to try and protect their property as best they can."

Mr. Vaughn also had some advice about electronics during power outages.

"Always unplug all electronics when the power goes off for an extended period of time, especially if they're plugged directly into the wall," he says. "Unplug them BEFORE the power comes back on. When the power does come back on after a long time, it's possible it may come in with a surge, and that may zap certain electronics like TV's, VCR's, computers, radios and things like that. You can always protect them by having them plugged into surge protectors, and the more you pay for one, the better it protects your equipment. If electronics are damaged these days, sometimes it's cheaper to just go buy a new whatever-it-is, we live in a throw-away society. But if insurance pays for it, most policies require an estimate on what the repair cost would be, and insurance will probably go ahead and pay for the full replacement value, what it would cost brand new, even if it's 10 years old."

Andra (Puddin) Waterson is one of the homeowners, trying to get re-settled right now back into a home that has had no electricity for four days.

"We had to clear most everything out of the refrigerator," she says. "There was no power and some things had started thawing out. I don't think there's much to be saved, even though we'd paid for it, and really didn't open the freezer door when the power went out."

Mr. Vaughn also had a word of caution about frozen food that could seem all right.

"When the power comes back on, take all the items out and examine them carefully," he says. "Any little part that is softer than usual, could mean thawing has happened and that could mean germs have set in to food poisoning. That food should be thrown out."

"It's good to know what insurance means if the power's been out," says Mr. Henderson. "I would not have thought to ask those kinds of questions, and I'm glad to know that now."

"This was one storm the weatherman got right," he says. "He said we may have power outages because of snow, and we'd all better be prepared for it. But you can't out-prepare God.. whatever you do, it's still in His Hands."

"He's still watching out for us, and will give us only what He knows we can stand. He took care of us during this time, and we need to give Him the thanks and the Praise."