Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season *

Kathy Kinsley is back in business, although just barely. Hurricanes and high tech don’t mix well.

And, while I’m at it: Can anyone explain to me why places that get hit by hurricanes SEVERAL TIMES A YEAR don’t bury their power lines?

* With apologies to Mr. Jimmy Buffett.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Rich says:

    Can anyone explain to me why places that get hit by hurricanes SEVERAL TIMES A YEAR don’t bury their power lines?

    Um, cost?

    Buried power is expensive and hard to attach to. Until an area is full developed, there is little return on the investment and after it has been developed, it is more expensive (easements and concrete are major impediments).

    Most places that have buried power are upscale developments that don’t like the eyesore of power poles and are willing to spend the extra cash on their removal.

    In the Northeast, there are winter storms that continually rip powerlines down – but the bottom line always wins. It’s cheaper to live for a little while without power than it is to bury the lines. Especially when you consider the added cost to extend and upgrade those buried lines in the future.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Rich,

    It may well be. They’ve pretty much gone to buried lines everywhere in the DC area and I like it. One would think that the high up front cost would be overcome by the lessened need to rebuild the infrastructure every time a storm hits, but that’s based on logic than any actual understanding of the costs involved on my part.

  3. Rich says:

    James,

    Unfortunately, most large businesses (and governments for that matter) have very little incentive to actually invest in something that doesn’t have short term benefits. The pressures of the stock market or the voting booth are just too great.

    The greater DC area is very well established, fairly stable, and fairly affluent (with ready access to federal cash too). Southern Florida is a quickly growing area – thanks to all the boomer retirees. All those retirees on fixed incomes are not all that fired up to spend any more than they have to.

    I agree that it would be nice to have a more long term outlook in the infrastructure business but the realities are all against it. We still haven’t attempted to fix the power grid issues revealed in that huge blackout last year in the northeast – nor do I expect we will until we really have to.

  4. DC Loser says:

    I think in places like Florida you have the problem of a very high water table. When I was recently in Ft. Lauderdale, a local told me that their water table was so high that if you dug a hole just a few feet down you’ll get water. I can imagine the cost of trying to bury electrical cables in that!

  5. John A. Kalb says:

    James,

    I don’t agree that most of the DC area has underground cables, at least from my experience living in several parts of it. During last Fall’s hurricane, my building was the last one on Connecticut Avenue to have power, because the cables were going above ground after that, and then everything was off on the side streets. And when I moved to Silver Spring, we had a power outage because the wires got downed nearby, and I was right off a major road. And most of Arlington has raised wires, outside of the Metro Corridor and the Pentagon City/Crystal City area.

    From what I remember from the hurricane last Fall, most of the DC area was without power, and they didn’t get the Metro running again for over a day because they didn’t have power for it. I remember it provoked quite a lot of complaints from the likes of Gregg Easterbrook because DC didn’t have underground cables.

  6. Ian S. says:

    My neighborhood (in a northwest suburb of Orlando) has all buried utilities, so not only was my power out for less than a day, but the cable modem connected up immediately when the power came back on. IMO, the cost is worth it, but good luck convincing people of that other than right after a hurricane’s hit.

  7. m says:

    Probably for the same reason that there are trailer parks and multi-million dollar beach houses. Something about the triumph of hope over experience…