And then, the power went out.
I have some familiarity with tornadoes. I grew up in an area where they were common. I covered a number of them as a reporter in South Dakota, ones where the damage was substantial or people died (if neither of those was true, then it was just another day on the Great Plains, and a tornado was just a tornado). I walked outside Tuesday last, just as the rain was starting to pelt down and the wind was winding up. Looked west, across the Hudson Valley. It was tornado weather, for certain.
And indeed, two tornadoes touched down in Putnam County that afternoon. The last tornado in Putnam was in 1990. Almost 30 years ago. In the process of these extreme winds, the tornadoes made a hash of the local power grid. And by Monday – yes, Monday – some 400 NYSEG customers, representing many more individual people, were still without power.
My assessment: 1, Putnam County has this down to a finely honed operation. Its Emergency Operations Center, first responders across the county, and DPW and other employees, including the County Executive, moved rapidly to respond. No doubt, this response was strengthened by the training of this past winter’s miserable storms, especially the last. Still, it’s a skill the county wears well.
2, NYSEG’s corporate parent, Avangrid, itself 81.5 percent owned by the Spanish company Iberdrola SA, isn’t really interested in something as mundane as supplying power to Putnam’s long-suffering residents. Avangrid, though, is very interested in renewable energy, anything that has the green tag attached to it. Your neighborhood in Carmel, Brewster or Kent Cliffs? Not so much.
NYSEG and Avangrid also are not interested in staffing the place so that a rapid response can be made. They may have been at one time, but that time is not now. We are reliant in good measure on the linemen from Canada, especially Hydro-Quebec. Once NYSEG arrives on the scene (hours later for a representative to even show up at the Emergency Operations Center in Carmel, I’m told), it has to “assess,” and then activate the mutual aid plan.
Then, someone else, but often not NYSEG, actually restores the lines.
It is Memorial Day weekend just ahead. There are commemorations across the county. Go to one. It is a genuine, apt and fitting occasion to thank a veteran and remember the dead. We’re lucky we can do that.
Until next week.
Douglas Cunningham is publisher of both the Courier and its sister paper the Putnam County News and Recorder, in Cold Spring. Letters on this or other topics are welcome. Limit to 500 words. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.