How many times can someone flip a light switch before they get used to not having power? For me, it’s too many to count. My automatic instinct to flip a switch every time I entered and exited a room never left during my three-day power outage.
In the days following the derecho that swept through the Midwest on June 29, I was one of the lucky ones when my power came back on Sunday morning. While my neighbors across the street had every light on in their house the same evening as the storm, many remained without power for a week or more.
The storm’s damage was tremendous. The National Weather Service reported more than 300,000 homes and businesses without power the following morning. High winds (including the estimated 100 mph wind in western Illinois) and several tornadoes brought down trees, power lines and utility poles across a large swath of the state.
While my wife and I settled in for our extended outage, we frequently visited our electric utility’s Facebook page for updates. While we were there for the updates, we stayed for the comments, and what we read disturbed us.
Without electricity, people in my community were losing their minds. Many seemed to think that power restoration was as easy as the flip of a switch. They didn’t seem to consider the severity of the damage to the electric system nor the amount of time it takes to locate the source of the outage and restore power safely. They wanted their electricity, and they wanted it immediately.
I should mention that I’m not a member of an electric cooperative; rather, my home is on city lines. I want to also note that there were positive comments scattered throughout the negativity, but I couldn’t believe the lack of understanding and the sense of entitlement many commenters exhibited.
I then became concerned for the hardworking employees of the affected electric cooperatives across the state. One by one, I checked social media updates for each co-op. However, there was nothing to worry about. Reading these comments, I felt my spirits lift as co-op consumer-
members across the state overwhelmingly shared messages of love and appreciation. Of course, there was a smattering of negativity, but no family is perfect.
Most of Illinois’ electric cooperatives sustained damage, and an emergency work plan was enacted. Lineworkers across Illinois and Missouri, as well as employees behind the scenes, gave up their Fourth of July holiday and time with their families to get the power back on — not only for members of their own communities but also for people across Illinois. They worked day and night and in heat and rain to achieve that goal.
Just like all the positive messages expressed on co-op social media sites, I’d like to take the time to not only thank the hardworking people who keep the lights on but also everyone who remained patient and kind throughout the extended outage. The co-op community is truly special to be a part of.
Photo courtesy of Monroe County Electric Cooperative, Inc.