I’m tired of it. Tired of people accusing Newfoundlanders of being weak, nish, of people like Trevor Taylor, who I respect in many ways, telling us to stop complaining. I’m sick of people telling us to shut up about the trees when we’re all complaining about the forest. Although some people were impacted in terrible ways over the last few days of what people on twitter call #darknl, we aren’t complaining about a power outage or a storm. At least most of the people I know aren’t. Storms and power outages are not new to us. Certainly not to me. Where I grew up, power outages were common and there were several Christmases in a row where we had snow storms and power outages at Christmas time. You deal. Maybe moan a bit but you deal. What’s happening now in Newfoundland is a totally different matter and worthy of complaint. This is complete incompetence and a lack of preparedness on the part of the organizations and people who are supposed to provide us power.
Now let me make myself very clear. I don’t mean the front-line workers. I sure as hell have nothing bad to say about those amazing, fantastic heroes who work in the snow and the wind and every other bit of weather mother nature can throw at us to get us our power back. The workers at Newfoundland Power, the lines-people who give their all to keep us powered up, have my utmost respect and thanks. I’d shake the hand of each and every one of you. Same for the front-line workers at Newfoundland Hydro.
It’s the decision makers that have me angry enough to walk around the house bitching to the walls and my poor Christmas tree that finished out its annual visit to my house, unlit and unloved. I’m so angry and frustrated that this is happening and people are focusing it down small enough to be an issue about a weekend snowstorm. Or the definition of the word crisis. Or where Kathy Dunderdale was when this all started. Call it ‘crisis’ or ‘critical time’ or ‘challenge’ or ‘obstacles’ but the schools have been shut down for three days, we’ve been told to conserve our electricity, perhaps for an extended period of time and places are running out of gas. And it’s because we don’t have enough power, or the powers-that-be don’t know if we have enough power to open schools or for us to all do a load of laundry in the evening or turn up our heat in the morning.
I don’t know about the politics of this. I don’t know if Kathy Dunderdale knew whether or not this problem was on the horizon or could have done anything about it. I hope the government at least thought that everything was okay.
The details can be hassled about. I read that there were four projects to improve Holyrood that were cancelled the day after the Muskrat Falls deal was signed. I read that, in spite of representatives of NL Hydro telling us that the load on our system was unforeseen, a report from 2011 predictedthat loads would be higher than they’ve been recently (1550mws was the load that Hydro said was unforeseen but, according to one source, a government document show a forecast of 1632mws peak load in 2013). I know that rolling blackouts were necessary and we were asked to conserve energy before a snow storm and before a fire at a transmission station. I believe that these two incidents have become scapegoats and I’ve heard them referred to by government and hydro representatives as the things that caused these power problems. I know that Newfoundland in winter is cold. Maybe not really, really cold but cold and it has been many, many times before. This is not surprising to anyone but the people who provide power here, I think. I also heard that a couple of major parts of the Holyrood generating plant are shut down and undergoing routine maintenance. In January!
Even if we get everything back to normal in a few days, and I certainly hope we do, I want to know that my power company can give us power. That when it gets cold in Newfoundland in the winter, (gasp!) we don’t have to sit in the dark in dirty clothes so we can all conserve power or worse, that people who don’t have money for generators and a stockpile of canned goods are not literally left in the cold by our provincial hydro company.
In response to those who have said that this was a perfect storm of problems, I say again, the rolling blackouts started before the fire at Sunnyside and the snowstorm this past weekend. And as for these problems and the cold? I’m reminded of a conversation with my children only a short time ago. We were trying not to be late for an appointment but we were stuck in traffic because of a car accident. I had left too late and now was going to be late. My son said, well, there’s traffic so they should understand. I explained that I should have left earlier. That it’s my responsibility to leave early enough to allow for things like bad weather or slow traffic. That, to be responsible, we have to be prepared.
So, for the people NL Hydro who didn’t foresee the cold or allow for the possibility that a power station could be disabled, by fire or any other means, or thought that shutting down and performing maintenance on power generating equipment in January in this province was a good idea, take a lesson from me that I taught to my children. Be prepared. Be prepared for the best of times but also for the worst of times because, just like Nan said, better to be safe than sorry. Especially if your lack of preparation will lead to hardship for people, and danger to many others. I’m not up on the great power debate so I don’t care if you do it via Muskrat Falls or Holyrood or Sunnyside or a big wind turbine on Duck Island, I just want you people to do it and be prepared. Take that from someone who wouldn’t be able to fire up enough power to light a bulb with a potato but manages a household and had enough beverages, batteries, and grub on hand in case of an outage. Because I was prepared. And while I’m at it, let me say it in my nicest, motherly voice: my sweethearts, if you aren’t prepared, then own up to it, admit that you were wrong, and say you’re sorry. It’s the least people who are depending on you deserve. All right, my darlings? Now, go back to it again and do your best. No, wait, don’t do your best. Do the kind of job the workers at Newfoundland Power do when the lines go down and they don’t give up until it’s all fixed. Yes, thank you now.