Hurricane Irene was devastating to Connecticut, but the storm this past weekend is said to be five times worse. That has been the case for me and my family. I feel very fortunate to have a propane generator and I empathize with the one million people in Connecticut who were without electricity painfully long. Now in the sixth day since the storm, more than half of the people in the town where I live are still without power. It was no consolation to see a story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday saying no state had gone dark like Connecticut (See Connecticut’s Power Woes Outshine Rest – WSJ.com) The article said there were three factors contributing to the extreme situation. First is that the electric company has cut their staff and outsourced their line crews. Second is that there is no county level coordination, leaving all 196 towns hounding the governor and the electric company for priority. The biggest factor is that Connecticut has 20,000 miles of electrical lines attached to poles that share space with a state densely populated with trees. Priority went toward providing access to the hundreds of roads that lost access with fallen trees.
Since the generator was installed ten years ago, it has served us at least a half-dozen times. I got some more education about generators this time. The generator went into action late Saturday night. Around 10 AM on Sunday it stopped. When I got through the 15 inches of snow to the generator, I found the Fault Indicator light on. What was the fault? The newer generators have a wireless option so you can connect them to a local area network and see what is going on. After an hour or so, I got to our service provider who suggested I check the oil. It never occurred to me that oil might be the problem, but sure enough, the oil was low, and of course I did not have any oil available. My son and his family were on the way to stay with us–their town nearby was 95% without power–and he brought some oil. We added two quarts plus some antifreeze and the generator roared back to life. Things returned to semi-normal. Four days later the generator stopped again. Two more quarts of oil brought it back to life.
I thought I had planned the emergency power distribution well, but not so. The refrigerator and freezer, heat, well pump, home automation, network infrastructure, office lighting and TV, were all covered. Somehow, I overlooked kitchen receptacles. A few extension cords here and there enables all the essentials. The only problem remaining would be AT&T.
AT&T is consistently ranked as having the worst customer service. I always thought Comcast was the worst (many stories about them here in the blog), but AT&T has taken over as my favorite worst! The iPhone and iPad have had weak signal for some time and today it deteriorated to barely useable. Tech support said the tower closest to us has been failing for 15 days! They expect to have a status update in 48 hours. That is the wireless story. The wired story is worse. At 10 AM Tuesday morning, the TV in my office abruptly changed from CNBC to “Television signal has been lost”. The telephone dial-tone and Internet service went dead at the same time. The advantage of AT&T U-Verse providing all three services through one connection turned in to a disadvantage. I suspect the problem was that in the process of dealing with the thousands of downed trees and electrical wires that some collateral damage occurred during the repairs.
I am sure there were some very smart hard-working crews on the case, away from their families, and without all the resources they needed to get the network back up and running. My disappointment with AT&T is that their support structure does not gather status information nor projected repair times. The electric company website shows a map by town with how many customers there are and how many are out of service. The status by town is updated every 15 minutes. They also post a projected time when electricity will be restored. Not AT&T.
I think AT&T is trying hard but they are a long way from getting it right. They answer quickly and then ask you the usual questions about account #, name, address, and security code. After telling them the problem is that you have been without service for 8 hours, they transfer you to tech support who then asks you for your account #, name, address, and security code. Then after waiting for a half-hour they tell you that service is out in your area, people are working on it, and when they have fixed it, your service will be restored. That is the deepest insight you can get. No estimates, no causes, no explanations. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” One rep said the problem may be that I am using a generator! They all end with “Thanks for using AT&T”, even though you are not using it! Urerse was restored after 32 hours.
Connecticut Light & Power said that their target for restoring service is 11 PM Sunday night. That will make the outage eight days. We are thankful that the town is able to provide water and shelter to those who need it. We are also blessed with a great hospital and dedicated staff that provided care to record numbers of patients in the emergency room.
- Photo Gallery – Generac 7 KW Air-cooled LP 0052400 Generator