El’s Suggestions for Floods, Storms, and Hurricanes
Written in November 2012 right after Hurricane Sandy

POWER OUTAGES: Underground electric wires are not the complete solution to power failures. Installing underground electric power is enormously expensive; and after installing, it takes much longer to find problems, and it is more difficult to repair outages. One inexpensive and environmentally positive way to prevent power outages is to plant dwarf trees and evergreen shrubs under and near power lines. In the long run plantings that will never grow as high as power lines or communication lines should more environmentally friendly than letting big trees tower over power lines and letting them tear down electric and communication lines and poles in storms and kill people. At least, when governments, individuals, businesses or utilities cut down trees near power lines they should replace them with dwarf trees and/or evergreen shrubs. Rocky Mountain Power (Portland, Oregon) has written a report on this subject titled "Small Trees for Small Places, 100 tree species for use adjacent to power lines" that can be found at www.RockyMountainPower.net and an article titled "The Right Tree in the Right Place" can be found at The Arbor Day Foundation (Nebraska City, NE) website www.arborday.org/trees/rightTreeAndPlace.

FLOODS AND ELECTRICITY: Electric utilities advise flood victims to shut off their electricity when their house is flooded, but warn of being electrocuted in the process. Also, they say that damage to motors, electronics, and appliances is greater when the electricity is on during floods. Many people are taken by surprise by floods, are children, are disabled, are asleep, or are not at home. So, I wonder why electric utilities do not automatically shut the electricity off to neighborhoods when there is any sign of flooding. Automatic flood detection is not expensive. Early warning systems are routinely sold that can transmit alarms 10 kilometers.

AFTER THOUGHTS: Several days before Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States at the end of October 2012, I saw several maps of the path of Sandy heading for my house. Thus, after my power was out for a day and was restored; I watched the news on my TV. Several utilities spokesmen on TV blamed the main cause of outages on tall old trees falling and flooding. Several times during my life I had trees taken down because I foresaw my trees were likely to take down power lines. About 40 years ago, when I was a member of the Maryland Conservation Council, I suggested the above ideas to Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. After thinking about the tragic pleas of Sandy's victims, I suspect that nothing had been accomplished by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, local agencies, and utilities in prevention in well over three decades.

Acknowledgements: Wendel J. Shuely III deserves credit for helpful suggestions.
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