AWARD-WINNING WRITER & EDITOR

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  • Susan Fleming Morgans

About The Issue

Power outages—yikes, I hate ‘em.

Power outages—yikes, I hate ‘em. Every time the lights flicker, I hold my breath and check my hair in the mirror. I can live without lamps, TV and an oven, but enduring a bad hair day because I can’t use the hair dryer is just, well, the worst.


If the outage lasts for more than a few minutes, I call my daughter and stepdaughter to see if they have power (gotta have a backup plan) and start scrounging for candles. In summer, I start mentally adding up the cost of the meat in the freezer that we might have to throw out. In winter, I give a quick thanks for three working fireplaces and hope Mt. Lebanon won’t have to activate the emergency management center and me with it.


Thankfully, the power usually comes back on in an hour or so—my husband and I once were having such an interesting conversation sitting in our blacked-out den, in fact, that I was annoyed when the lights and 10 o’clock news interrupted us.(Much better, though, than going to bed and being jolted awake at 3 a.m. by Duquesne Light’s “TaDa!”)


Sometimes, for whatever reason, a power outage lasts for several days—and that’s when tempers flare. Can’t cook, can’t use the computer, can’t watch SpongeBob. Phone is dead, ice cream and filet mignon have thawed, and everyone’s hair looks like Kelly Osbourne’s or, worse still, her dad’s.

Two winters ago during a widespread five-day power outage, we were the “lucky” ones with electricity, so our house became a cheerful (???) home away from home for our two adult children and four grandchildren under the age of 7. Well, it was fun, for a day or two—but then everyone went stir crazy. (Seriously, how much mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken nuggets can you eat?). When the power finally came back on, my daughter and her husband nearly decapitated each other trying to collapse the Pack ‘n Play and get outta there!


Legend has it Abraham Lincoln studied by candlelight in his log cabin, asking the tough questions a future president needs to have answered. Today when the power punks out, we light candles and ask only two questions—why did the power go out and when is it coming back on?


The answers are more complicated than you might imagine, even for Duquesne Light. Merle Jantz’s story provides some answers, along with an overview of how we get our electricity and why simple sounding solutions such as, “Why not just bury the wires underground?” are not viable options.


Read it now, before the power goes out (just kidding), and as the Boy Scouts and Fire Department recommend—be prepared. Stock up on basic emergency supplies, such as candles that you will, of course, never leave unattended.


And if you have a hair obsession like me, you might want to grab a few wigs.