On Saturday night the north east USA was hit by a snow storm. Halloween was on Monday evening and there was no power, snow on the ground and a chill in every home and dark streets. Truly scary and towns advised that the festival which involves children going house to house to "trick or treat" be avoided given the rather unsafe conditions and this affected businesses who were hoping for some Halloween sales. We went out and found some Halloween candy at the local pharmacy chain Rite Aid where there was no power – two counter staff were trying to manually write down the bar codes and compute sales tax with a battery operated calculator and a flashlight. On the way the desolation around the McDonald's ,Staples and sundry other businesses in the strip malls were just unbelievably eerie.
Earlier on Sunday coffee shops like Dunkin' Donuts were open but were serving only cold coffee and a few hours later- they too just closed. It is almost a week now and in Connecticut there are still 300,000 homes without power. We were lucky and had no power for just two nights. The first night on Sunday at 25 deg F was tolerable as the house was still warm but on Monday night although the outside was 35 deg F , it was bone chilling cold. Just the thought that about a million people are still facing this kind of situation is unthinkable.
Compared to Irene, there was no media build up the emergency nature of the snowstorm Alfred. Emergency because the trees still have leaves on them and any snow makes the trees heavy and they crash into overhead power lines. Power distribution in the US is through overhead lines and at this time snow laden leafy trees are disastrous. Crews of workers are cutting and removing trees and other crews are putting back the overhead wires. Such crews have come from as far as California on the west coast.
Given that this is the second time that power has gone off for a week with first tropical storm Irene and now snowstorm Alfred, it is time to re-evaluate overhead power distribution lines and take them underground. Or have a much faster disaster recovery and response system. The latter can perhaps cut down a few days and at least reduce the cold and misery of almost a million Americans still without power tonight.