Derecho coverage left big gaps

The worst thing about an emergency situation like the derecho is the lack of information.

If you go on the Dominion web site, you seem to find plenty of it — news releases, interactive outage maps, lists of where the crews are working, even a place called “Storm Center.” But if you actually need real information — like has electricity been returned to your home – you’ll find it’s all a façade.

And in Albemarle County, you’re on your own when it comes to road safety issues as well.

For example, Garth Road out by Owensville suffered a major hit that Friday night. Huge trees came down over the road taking down a number of power lines. But no one– not VDOT nor the local authorities thought to put up a road hazard sign, so hundreds of drivers went all the way down Garth and then got stuck trying to traverse a gauntlet of downed tree limbs and dangerous power lines.

The police, when called, had no idea what was open and safe, and what was not. And when I called VDOT, they were looking at the same inadequate online map I had on my laptop.

Okay, so it was a freak storm– or perhaps not so freak since it happened in 2008, followed by a hurricane in 2010– and came out of nowhere. But isn’t that what emergencies are? And other utilities, like PSE&G in northern New Jersey, have real emergency management and information systems in place, so I know it is possible to do so in Virginia.

The handling of this emergency, on all levels, sheds a glaring light on our lack of emergency preparedness in Charlottesville, Albemarle and Virginia as a whole. Dominion is a monopoly– we can’t shop for service from multiple vendors– so it should be part of their mandate to be ready for all emergencies and have an information system in place that actually helps its victims– I mean customers.

By the way, the Hook has handled the whole thing as if it were covering a supermarket grand opening. [July 3: "Deadly derecho: Two die as powerful storm wreaks havoc" and "What did the derecho do to you?"]

I can go to wikipedia and get the definition of derecho and ask myself and my neighbors how they are coping with the heat. Perhaps you could have been doing a little more information-gathering on behalf of your readers, and a little more questioning about why it will took 10 days to restore service to some Dominion customers.

Jaye Lambert

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1 comment

Dear Jaye Lambert -

Feel free to move back to where you may have come from. I think that the responders did an excellent job - I lost power for 6 days and kept up-to-date by following Dominion Power on Twitter through my cell phone. Our private road was blocked for a day until the neighborhood joined and had a "chainsaw" and "branch moving" party. What did you do to help out?

And feel free to make multiple donations to the volunteer fire stations around who assisted. I don't think you realize how good we have it in this area.