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The Nor'easter of October 2011: downed trees, cut power lines & sad grasshoppers

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Oil Lady:
The snow typically never starts flying here in this area until late November,  well after Leaf Peeping season and after the trees have all shed their leaves down to just bare sticks. Even with those November snowfalls, it's rarely very much accumulation, and so we never truly rely on actual snow until late December or early January. An October snowfall is almost unheard of, and usually doesn't even collect beyond a millimeter in depth. But THIS was "The Nor'Easter of 2011," which shattered meteorological records all across the board.

I live in Agawam, Massachusetts. The snow storm started here around noon Saturday, October, 29. The snow continued to fall until about 3 in the morning, Sunday, October 30. A total of 14 inches fell in this area during that time period. The trees of this region all still had over 80% of their leaves intact (more than half the trees were still green and hadn't even hot their golden red glows!). Therefore, the branches of those trees all captured probably 3 to 5 times as much snow than what they'd normally capture had their branches been barren.  The result was tens of thousands of trees all over this region were in some way bent, snapped, and fallen. And thousands of power lines have been severed due to those shattered trees. 

Over 90% of Agawam is without power and we will continue to be without power for another 3 to 4 days.

All the mayors of all the cities in this one county had a joint press conference this morning (today is Monday, October 31, just 2 days after the snow began to fall) updating the citizens about the lack of power. The governor himself also addressed the citizens.

In all of Western Massachusetts,  over a half million people are without power.

Down in Connecticut, another half million are without power.


Whenever the power goes out in this region, it's usually out for an hour, maybe two, or six hours at the most. We just don't suffer long power outages in this region. And even then ,we rarely see a power outage that is wide spread. But this was different because it was "death by a thousand cuts." There are just too danged many breaks in too danged many individual lines all over the place. It'll take a week to restore all those power lines.

Meanwhile, there's no hot water, no electricity, people cant shower, can't do laundry, can even make their morning coffee, nor can they get on the TV or the internet to get the latest info (I am in a Starbucks in Westfield, Massachusetts as I type this.)  Some Dunkin Donuts donut shops are open and some are closed. The open ones have lines lines lines lines lines.

And gasoline!! The really huge new gas stations (the giant Pride Stations that were built less than 5 years ago) have emergency backup generators, so those gas stations are open for business. But the older gas stations have no such generators so their lifeless pumps sit there not operating. There are lines of cars 20 to 25 cars long stretching down he road at every OPEN gas station I see (and those open gas stations are rare).

People can't cook whatever food they have at home, nor can they go to grocery stores because those stores likewise have no electricity. So they are going to the few and rare McDonald's and Burger Kings that are fortunate enough to be open (either because they are on a lucky section of the grid, or they have generators). Again --lines lines lines lines lines.

The City of Westfield has its own hydro electric power station, so they got back online by yesterday afternoon. Ditto for the City of Holyoke and the City of Chicopee (they all have their own local electrical hydro-powered dams so they have autonomy on their electrical generation). The rest of this area relies on the monster behemoth of a utility company called Northeast Utilities for their power. And NEU can't get the lines fixed quickly enough. There are just too may lines to fix, too many millions of miles of broken Christmas tree lights for them to try and fix all in one shot. A week, they say.

I see people coming into this Starbucks with bad hair, wearing pajamas.

I hear people talking about not having showered this morning, not having clean clothes to wear, and all the food in their fridge spoiling. 

I work in a nursing home in Westfield. The night of the blizzard, we lost power and had to rely on backup generators. There was no hot water so we could give no showers to our residents. I was the only person with a flashlight, and the other CNA's and even the nurses were borrowing my flashlight constantly.

I sadly live in an apartment at the moment, so I also have no electric. I drove 40 miles yesterday out to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to shower at my cousin's house before going to work the late shift last night --none of my other friends, relatives, or neighbors in this area had hot water. Today I will shower at a nearby friend's house who just got her power restored.

The temps dropped last night into the 20's, and they will again tonight. Many people are in danger of freezing tonight which will be the third night with no heat.

I went to get a copy of a key made for my friend --she gave me a house key so I can stay with her, and she asked me to make a copy. At the Westfield hardware store where I went to get that key made, they said almost every customer who came in asked about buying a backup generator. They finally hung a sign saying "No, we have no more generators." 

This whole crisis comes right on the heels of the freak tornadoes that ripped through this region just this past summer. So this is a huge here-we-go-again moment for a lot of residents of this area.

Grasshoppers becoming ants.

Morning Sunshine:

--- Quote from: Oil Lady on October 31, 2011, 01:24:49 PM ---Grasshoppers becoming ants.
--- End quote ---

one can hope.  or it will be "wow, this was a freaky year.  but that won't happen again.  I don't need to prepare for any of that."

Oil Lady:
When your presumed place of importance in the world gets shown to be the delusional myth that it always was, that's when you start to change your attitude and change your priorities as far as how self-sufficient you'll force yourself to be.

Let me explain the following about this region:

We are are part of "The Northeast Corridor." That's a long and stretched out swath of urbanism which starts in Boston, follows the key train lines southward and ends in Washington DC. The pathway of the Northeast Corridor was roughly duplicated by the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System in the 1960's. This corridor has been dubbed a true "megalopolis," which is a continuous stretch of city that goes on for hundreds of miles, joining multiple cities into one unified entity. So the "citiness" of Boston continues on an almost unbroken pathway all the way down the East Coast to Washington DC with New York City as the main anchor of that long corridor. (And some say that Richmond should now be tacked on as well because if the explosive growth Richmond has experience over the past 20 years. But some of the resistance to including Richmond is that the Northeast Corridor is deemed a Northern entity, a Northern club of exclusivity, and so those Southerners shouldn't be included into it. But money usually wins in the end, so if Richmond can continue to show a massive mountain of money each year, it'll eventually be let into the club. But the cultural resistance against accepting them is strong.)

This jpg shows the main pathway called the "Northeast Corridor."

This jpg shows the secondary extensions of the NEC which are appended to the main pathway.

This pathway of the NEC is deemed the heart of "civilized society" here in this region of the USA. There's a lot of self-importance among the residents of this region. There's a lot of presumptuousness as far as the belief that "we" are "it." (I see this shit all the time among my fellow New Englanders who either live along the Northeast Corridor or else who live along the Connecticut River.)

In fact, the portion of the Connecticut Rive Valley where I live is sometimes called the "Springfield-Hartford Area" (or the "Hartford-Springfield Area"). This region has been dubbed the "Insurance Capitol of the World" because all the original American insurance companies going back a solid 200 years ago started in this region. So we have banksters living here in the Connecticut River Valley. (Self-importance.)

Meanwhile, a lot of the VERY old and prestigious colleges and universities (and even quite a few blue-blooded boarding schools, including the Wilbraham-Monson Academy and the Deerfield Academy, ) are here, stretching upward into the Northampton-Amherst area. So this area has also been dubbed the "Knowledge Corridor" full of very intellectual types of the earthy-crunchy, save-the-whale, Al Gore variety. (More self-importance.)  A lot of Senators and Congressmen went to any number of learning institutions in this area, and send their kids there as well.

Here's how the intelligentsia of the Greater Springfield Area think:

The uneducated citizenry who dwell in the Hill Towns around here, THEY are the "less important" people who prefer the simplicity of living out in the sticks. They are the descendants of farmers and mill workers, and therefore THEY are the ones who have emergency back-up generators. But not us. No. We are, after all in the heart of "civilization" itself.  How could the electrical grid POSSIBLY fail around here? And even if it did fail, we are far too "important" for it to be left to fail for very long. WE are the Insurance Capitol of the World. WE are the Knowledge Corridor. WE are the ones who published Webster's Dictionary over 200 years ago and therefore WE are the standard for the proper pronunciation of American English as dictated by all American broadcast schools. WE are home to the second-largest city in New England (Springfield, Massachusetts). WE are the County Seat. WE have all the TV stations which service Western Massachusetts. WE are the juncture point for Interstate 91 and Interstate 90. WE are on the Connecticut River. WE are a main rail hub between all North-South rail lines and all East-West rail lines of this region. WE have the largest hospital in Western Massachusetts and WE have one of the few Level V Trauma Centers in all of New England. WE have 4 colleges in Springfield alone. WE are a region with more colleges and universities per square mile than almost any other region of the whole of North America. WE have a history of poets and scientists coming from this area.

Surely the electrical service for this region WILL NOT be permitted to fail. It simply can't.

We're too big to fail. Too important to fail. The rest of the world needs us and they will scramble to rescue us. Not like the riff-raff down in New Orleans who were left to flounder in helplessness after Katrina.  Not like the "little people" who live in "fly-over country" all over the Mid-West. Not us. We have too many connections with too many Senators and Congressmen and scientists and educators, and so they won't let us down like that. No. Not us.

Yes. This IS the attitude around here.

And those delusions are being shattered with each passing day that the power continues to remain off. Generators are being ordered. Relatives in other parts of the USA are overnighting D-cell batteries to the residents of this region. The supposed reliability of Northeast Utilities, and the supposed priority "WE" were supposed to be given by Northeast Utilities are two myths being thoroughly busted.

How could this happen? The government let us down! --us! Not just anyone, but US! If they won't (or worse, can't!) help the likes of us, then who the hell CAN they help?

These snooty self-important goofballs have to reassess their place in the universe and have to arrive at one of two conclusions:


a) We are NOT as important as we thought, and the government needs to prioritize others who are MORE important than we are. We just need to know our place in the world is all.
b) We are still just as important as ever, but our government is not as powerful and protective of us as we imagined they would be (or should be) and therefore we must restructure our lives to be less dependent upon them than we were before. We are intelligent enough and resourceful enough to make up for the slack that the government is so obviously going to let slip by.  After all, the world needs us, and it therefore behooves us to make sure we remain strong and carry on for the sake of humanity.

Which life-changing conclusion do YOU think these pompous assholes are going to go for??

So I see grasshoppers around here becoming ants with each passing day. 

Morning Sunshine:
I love your part of the country.  if it wasn't so fuill of the types you just described, I would be moving there in a heartbeat.

I hope you are correct.  how did you guys fare in the Quebec ice storm caused power outage in '98?  the power first went out behind my apartment when I was living in Montreal, but I understand it effected a god part of New England as well.

Oil Lady, let' have this conversation in 6 months and see just how many grasshoppers in your neighborhood became ants. My guess is very few. Watch Craigslist and see if all of the stuff people buy isn't put up for sale about that time.

Sadly, that has been my experience with urban grasshoppers, even today. Maybe continued bad economic times will change that, but I am not hopeful. Even up here where people pride themselves on being "self-reliant", I see grasshoppers everywhere, with the attitude of "It won't happen here". We did get 2 blizzards back to back last December dumping more than 30" of snow, but the streets were plowed and opened within a day or two. Our neighbors were without power for 4 days, but none of them bought generators this year.

The other attitude I see, like you do, is that .gov will take care of us. Not really sure there is much hope there.


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