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SIMPSON: Storm' effects linger and defy prevention

When speaking of Hurricane Irene, they say the worst is over. Yes, but the pain lingers on.

In the aftermath of Irene are damaged buildings, bridges and roads. Floods covered some towns and falling trees knocked out power.

We know these things happen following storms, so how do we cut our losses? Do we strengthen building codes? How about better forecasting? Should we move away from beaches, rivers and streams? How about putting power lines underground? Cutting trees?

Statistics prove that trees falling on power lines have been a major source of trouble in storm areas. Why didn't they bury lines when first built? Probably because it has been the experience of power companies that is easier and less costly to fix lines above ground rather than do repairs underground.

We wonder if companies factored in consumer costs when power is lost? How many times have you lost a freezer full of food after days of power loss? How uncomfortable were you without your air conditioner in 90-degree heat?

Some power companies do a better job than others in trimming limbs around their lines. Even so, during Irene falling trees across lines caused many power losses. Thousands of people were still without power days after the hurricane passed.

Studies prove there are fewer outages with underground lines. However, when a problem occurs it costs more and takes longer to repair power lines underground. These costs are surely passed on to consumers. Underground lines become less reliable the older they get. So, because of costs and reliability and easier access, we are probably stuck with overhead lines for now.

Victims of Irene are learning all about such things as they struggle to find normalcy.

With new storms forming in the Atlantic, people must be prepared to face new challenges. Once again many will face excessive rain, winds, falling trees, curfews, flooding and loss of power. Some will be evacuated. What can they do but heed warnings, follow instructions, take precautions, be prepared and move out of danger's path.

Because of severe damage, polluted drinking water, exposure to disease and other undesirable after-effects, people in storm zones tend to have a sense of impending doom. They know getting back to normal takes time, money and patience.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.