As I sit at home keying this column, on my battery powered laptop computer via candle light, shivering from my cold shower, it is night number three without power for over 126,000 Rhode Islanders.
Apparently it could be several more days before power is restored according to the electric company web site. The level of frustration will undoubtedly grow exponentially as the days pass.
How could this possibly happen? Hurricane Irene missed us. It was a tropical storm, let me repeat that, it was a tropical storm by the time its effects hit us!
Reading news reports of half the state in the dark at one point, one would have thought Rhode Island was hit with a category 5 mega storm with 150 mph winds. Frankly I am embarrassed. Our state once again is looking like a laughing stock to the rest of the nation.
Taking days to fully restore storm damage utilities in a town situated in the middle of the woods with thousands of trees surrounding electrical infrastructure could be more understandable. But to take up to a week to restore electricity in a major metropolitan area such as Warwick, the second largest city in the state, is unacceptable. Its frightful to imagine what would have happened if we experienced a real hurricane. And the governor believes this is the best state in the country, bar none. Tell that to the local merchants losing a week of revenue and paying some of the highest taxes in the country.
State and local leaders warned us to be prepared for the storm. Where was their preparation to handle such wide spread problems? Who couldnt have predicted that there would be trees down all over the state due to the fact that nothing like this had occurred since Hurricane Bob in 1991. Twenty years is a long time to let weaken old, rotted, trees remain over power lines.
On Saturday a friend emailed me photos of trees across major power lines predicting they would take down those lines. Guess what? He was right, on Sunday they took down the lines.
This is not a unique problem with government, not only in RI but nationally as well. Our political leaders have never been proactive in anything they do. If they were we would have funded programs to ensure these trees were removed from the threat of disrupting utility services. That isnt possible since politicians need to keep their friends happy and allocated those funds for other programs such as the pension system that is bankrupting the state or the social welfare network providing benefits that are costing us billions of dollars while encouraging people to become dependent on the government for a lifetime.
Rhode Island roads and bridges rank at the top as the worst in the country. Why didnt we perform the needed maintenance to keep the bridge performing at peak condition or developed a plan to replace them when needed? Traversing some roadways to avoid damaging potholes can be as challenging as skiing a mogul run.
Where was the plan to assist those Warwick homeowners who were told that hooking up to the sewer system with a grinder pump would not expose them to any problems? Without power these systems will fill up with wastewater in a few days making use of the toilet prohibited. Shouldnt the sewer authority have a plan to pump out these systems so these people can stay in their homes? And the sewer officials wonder why no one wants to hook up to the system.
Heres a novel idea, lets reallocate some of the trillions of dollars spent supporting Iraq and Afghanistan infrastructure and reinvest it back in Americas infrastructure. Now thats a proactive approach to instantly put people back to work and cut unemployment!
Its approaching mid-night, day four without power and I am getting tired of ranting in the dark. For a positive outlook, at least I dont have to worry about the neighbor's spotlight shining in my bedroom window.
Addendum: As of 3 a.m. Wednesday my neighborhood power has been restored. Everyone is happy and like typical Rhode Islanders we will soon forget what happened and continue to support the same political establishments responsible for our current state of affairs.
Robert Cushman (Cushmanr@cox.net) is a former Warwick City Councilman and former School Committee Chairman.