Much Ado: How Do We Keep Losing Power?

A squirrel jumps along a splintered limb that had fallen as a result of high winds on Nov. 5. To date, Albion College has had 3 significant power outages across campus during this semester alone (Photo by Liam Rappleye).

Much Ado is a Pleiad column that features slightly off-kilter and sardonic reportage. Much Ado first appeared in The Pleiad in the 1940s, and it has been sporadically written since, most recently in the early 1970s. This week, The Pleiad revives Much Ado. 

After the first-week chaos of this semester, I thought The Pleiad would only have to write once about power outages. 

Okay, maybe twice… things happen. 

But here I am, drafting a third article about electrical failures at Albion College. I must be crazy.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, around 2:30 a.m., Albion College Campus Safety sent a notice that spun me into a fit of déjà vu. It read: “Car accident near campus is causing power issues on campus.” 

Lights flickered and sputtered out for the third time. For those who were affected by the self-immolating power lines last week, it would be the fourth episode of lightlessness. 

People sent texts and posted to the anonymous message board Yik Yak, in all caps, asking a simple question, a question that we all ask ourselves every time this happens: 

“AGAIN?”

It was novel the first time it happened. It was so strange that it was almost amusing. No class for the first week of school! How fun!

The second time it happened it was a short-lived inconvenience. An eye-roll was the appropriate reaction. 

The third time, though? Now I have some questions. 

Are we on the weakest power grid in the Midwest? Was there a Fast and Furious-style car crash that wiped out a power line? Is someone in Albion playing real-life Grand Theft Auto on these streets?

A search for the term “Power outage” on The Pleiad website brings up nine results. Five of them are stories from this semester about the lack of electricity at Albion College. Something strange seems to be happening.

Perhaps we really are on a frail power grid that is easily susceptible to failure. Perhaps the poles carrying power lines from building to building are rotten. We won’t know without a scientific experiment. 

Test it. If you stand outside and exhale hard enough, you might knock over a power line or cause it to self-combust, thereby canceling classes for a few days. If you’re nervous about the approaching finals week, look around your dorms, houses, frats and lodges and consider who has the strongest lungs. They could possibly help you get some more time to study (though you may be reading your notes next to candlelight). 

But be careful: If we all go out at take a deep breath at the same time, we might just blow this place off the map. 

 

About Liam Rappleye 10 Articles
Liam Rappleye is a sophomore English major from Grand Haven, Michigan, where he coaches a youth baseball team during the summer. Contact Liam via email at LKR11@albion.edu

4 Comments

  1. I’ll tell you the reason, which all comes down to money and taxes. Twenty-plus years ago, power outages occurred but were significantly less common. Heavy storms due to climate change are the ultimate culprit, but not the only ones regarding power blackouts.
    Power lines navigate the highways and roadways, where our city, county, and state governments are taxed with tree trimming or removal. Utility companies, routinely inspect lines for kinks or breaks, but governmental jurisdictions are tasked with tree trimming and removal. CE will trim branches immediately in line with power lines – but have no authority to trim beyond that. So that leaves local, county, and state to take up the rest – and there is no money to trim/remove trees locally.
    Small towns and villages don’t have the tax base to create monies enough to afford tree removal. When the cost to remove a tree is roughly $600 each – we are talking significant funds to achieve success.
    So, the lesson here is that while it’s easy to point fingers at CE, three fingers are pointing back at us – the tax-paying citizens.
    CE could bury the power lines – but being a public utility (not for profit), it would significantly raise energy costs.
    So how do I know – I have been Sr Construction Mgr with a major retailer for over thirty years. I have worked with about forty utility companies across the United States and have considerable experience with both CE & DTE. They all complain about the tree problem overextending into powerline easements.
    So while it’s easy to point fingers, it comes down to us, taxpaying citizens, and our willingness to pay higher taxes to manage the tree work. I, like you, am over having frequent power outages. I wish it were more manageable than having to pay higher taxes.

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