Driving around Louisville in mid-September meant discovering new neighborhoods as National Guard troops redirected traffic from roads blocked by fallen trees. The long arm of Hurricane Ike swatted the city with winds reaching 75 mph. More than 300,000 homes and businesses lost power, some for as long as a week. Backyard barbecues blazed as neighbors met to cook meat from their dormant freezers. Cafes and coffee shops filled with people seeking warm food and drink, a working outlet to charge their cell phones, and Internet access.
All that mess reminds us of the importance of different kinds of connections.
Electrical connections, of course, rank with air and water as necessities of modern life.
Connections require care: care when they need repair, and care to try to keep them from needing repair too often.
The Louisville windstorm shows why itï¿½s so important to keep trees trimmed around power lines. There was also a tragic safety reminder about the portable generators many people used for temporary power. Twenty-one people were treated at a hospital for inhaling fumes from generators, and one death was suspected from running a generator in a house. Safety tips include keeping generators 15 to 20 feet from the house, shutting them down at night, and getting professional advice if the generator is to be connected to a homeï¿½s wiring.
Keeping electric lines up and running is crucial. But even more important are the human connections.
It takes dedicated line workers and huge preparation to have crews trained and trucks operating for everyday maintenance, and ready to mobilize when weather strikes.
A neighborly cooperative spirit helps, too. As the Co-op Postcard describes this month, when Hurricane Gustav slammed electric utilities in Louisiana, several Kentucky co-ops thought they could help. After carefully analyzing where workers were needed, several Kentucky co-ops determined they could send crews to help rebuild power systems near the Gulf Coast. Several days later, those line workers were back home, some repairing Ikeï¿½s wind damage at their own co-ops, assisted by co-op crews from Tennessee and Illinois.
In September, Kentucky electric co-ops gave help and got help. Thatï¿½s the kind of neighborliness that helps keep us all connected.