Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the early hours of September 1st but its effects were still being felt over a week later. In the aftermath of the storm nearly 100,000 Tallahassee residents lost power. And while nearly 15,000 gained it back within 24 hours, many homes were still without power a week later. As of the morning of September 10th the city was working on restoring power to the final 100 customers. With this widespread, long-lasting outage, many people wondered why this event caused so much damage and how it could be prevented in the future.
Tallahassee is known for its canopy roads and gorgeous oak trees and while aesthetically pleasing they can cause many problems for the city’s 1000 miles of above ground power lines. Many citizens don’t understand why the city doesn’t just transfer these lines underground but it isn’t just a simple move. Currently 60% of the city’s lines are below ground but relocating the remaining lines could cost up to 2 billion dollars according to city officials – a price many taxpayers would likely be unwilling to pay. The initial cost is also not the only cost involved. Moving the lines underground means they would need to be insulated and replaced every 25-30 years. Also, telephone wires currently use the existing power lines and would need to be rerouted if they were moved underground. Although the trees are a problem and were definitely the main culprit for the power outages during Hermine, the city does have many guidelines and restrictions regarding the proximity of lines to trees outlined on their website: http://www.talgov.com/you/you-learn-utilities-electric-tree-trimming.aspx
While many complained about the rate of the restoration of the power, many workers labored around the clock so that power would be returned. The city kept fairly open communication on their website with a power outage map so that the affected areas could be monitored. The city also posted relevant information about who to contact to report outages. The suggestion was to call the main customer service number at 891.4YOU (4968) and may be used as a general point of contact with the city for any issues. The city also has a smartphone app called DigiTally that can be used to report outages as well as provide users with other relevant information about the city.
The last major hurricane event before Hermine was Kate in 1985, about 30 years ago. If Tallahassee only experiences a major storm every 20-30 years, then maybe it will be worth it to simply shoulder the damages to the above ground lines as they come. However, with an uncertain future due to climate change and global warming, the city may have a change of heart in the years to come. For now, Tallahassee will just have to deal with the nuisance of falling trees. With dedicated city workers, the city will surely be powerful again in the event of another natural disaster in a timely fashion. The fact that power was the major concern among most citizens rather than loss of life is something all Tallahassee residents can be happy with, even if they had to suffer through some stuffy apartments and homes.
By WENDY PARKULO / Contributing Writer