7 Lessons We Learned From The Great Power Outage of 2020

We’ve all been having a very fun last few weeks, right? Everything has been calm, nothing bad has happened, Oklahoma and the rest of the country haven’t experienced any turbulence.

Oh, except for… everything that’s happened the last few weeks.

With everything leading up to election week, it was already a stressful time, and then you had Mike Morgan going on TV to scare us into believing we’re gonna have a major ice storm. Normally, I’d think, “Yeah right” – which I kinda did – but in the back of my brain, I knew we were about to have the most 2020 week of 2020.

Hopefully, if you’re reading this your power has been restored. It was 12 days and some subsequent outages for me, and I know a lotta people had it worse. We had plenty of time to site in the dark and reflect, so here’s what we learned:

OG&E Sucks

This is not news to anyone who’s lived in Oklahoma for any stretch of their lives, but goddamn did they bungle the response to this ice storm. As we documented, they kept sending out messages moving back the goalposts of power restoration, which is frustrating when you’re sitting in the dark wearing three layers of clothes under two blankets. That first weekend, they prioritized places like Enid, which DO NOT GET ME WRONG those people absolutely need power too, over the dense urban core. But wouldn’t it be more efficient to focus on areas where more people live in tighter clusters? And how about they just drop down the money to bury the lines because they know this shit happens every other year?

(Shout out to the line workers though, y’all work hard and I appreciate you.)

Don’t Stock the Fridge

We made the mistake of hitting the grocery store the day before the ice storm in the misguided notion that we’d just be stuck at home for a few days. $100 later, we were set. And then the power snapped out. We fit what we could into ice chests, but still ended up having to throw out a lot of perishables and deep clean the rancid refrigerator. Next time, stick to tinned sardines and crackers.

Invest in generators and/or extension cords

After the ice storm, you could hear who the big ballers are in your neighborhood by stepping outside and listening for the humming vibrations of generators. If you’re rich and have the money to drop on one, do it. If not, get some extension cords. One weird thing about the ice storm is how people on one side of a street only lost power for a few hours, while people on the other side of the street lost it for over a week. This resulted in local neighborhood streets being crisscrossed with orange extension cords, serving as a gentle reminder that at least there are a few cool neighbors still left out there.

Reading is Essential

Of course a catastrophic power outage would happen during a week when the news was going bonkers and all you wanted to do was doomscroll Twitter. But when you gotta preserve that precious phone juice, what do you do? Reach into that bookshelf. I read more books and old magazines over the last two weeks than I have the rest of the year combined. At least, until 5pm hit and my apartment was pitch black.

Oklahoma drivers don’t know what to do when lights go out at intersections

Everyone thinks that their state has the worst drivers, but seriously – Oklahoma has the worst drivers. To see this, just watch them try to navigate an intersection without working traffic signals. They all turn into indecisive squirrels darting into a road, not sure whether to stop, go or just get hit.

Know a Tree Guy

I live in a very tree-heavy neighborhood, which is normally lovely, at least until they all collapse and are strewn about the streets and collapsing the power lines. OG&E won’t touch em, so make friends with a guy that owns a chainsaw and a giant truck. That’s not normally the crowd I hang with, but I’m sure if I spent enough time at a sports bar in Yukon I could charm my way into finding one.

For what it’s worth, we do know a tree guy if you need one:

Don’t Take Electricity For Granted

This was a very good ‘check your privilege’ moment. We rely so much on having electricity, from needing to charge your phone or laptop, having wi-fi, watching television, having heat and hot water, keeping our food cold. There’s a lot of people who have to deal with that every day, and many of them don’t even have a shelter to bunker up into. Yes, it was a frustrating experience, but somebody’s always got it worse.

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17 Responses

  1. A large number of Oklahoma drivers don’t know what to do when lights at the intersection are WORKING!

  2. And if we could only get Cassie Heiter to come over to News Channel 4 my life would be complete.
    What. A. Babe. – and she knows her weather too!

  3. We were really lucky. Kept power the whole time and all the idiot kids believed our story about no power AND a covid infestation. BEST TWO WEEKS EVER!!!!

  4. GRANDPA [speaking to grandson]: Now sonny, I tell you—-back in my day, we didn’t HAVE no electric’ty! No, sir! Oh, we HAD electrons—we just didn’t have none of ’em flowing through WIRES, and what-not! They was free-range electrons! So we had to make do, with candles, or sometimes we’d light Cousin Cletus’ beard on fire.

    GRANDSON: What year was this, grandpa? How old were you?

    GRANDPA: It was 2020 in Oklahoma, and I was 35 years old.

    GRANDSON: But—-they had electricity back in 2020!

    GRANDPA: I said it was OKLAHOMA, boy! Don’t go contradictifyin’ yer grandpa!

  5. Over a week without Thomas Alva Edison. Where’s my roll of paper towels?

  6. The same goes for ALABAMA after a hurricane comes thru and we are out of power for 6 days. The dumpster was full of the whole deep freeze and refrigerator

  7. Feel sad for OG&E. Not only do they have to spend a fortune repairing their poles and lines, but they also aren’t selling any power to the customers with outages. Their objective has probably been to get things fixed cheaply, not necessarily quickly.

    It’s the way of for-profit corporations. If they have to choose, it’s profits before service.

    1. This is where the phone and cable company has an advantage — no service? Still billed for whole month.

      1. Why not? They have dividends that need to be paid.

      2. I contacted Cox about my cable being out for two weeks and they credited me for those days. Yes, I shouldn’t have had to do it, they should’ve been decent and done it themselves, but that ain’t ever gonna happen.

  8. Probably need to back off on the “bury the power lines.” Didn’t happen, won’t happen. It’s too expensive even with multiple ice storms. Tree trimming, pole maintenance, and specific distribution upgrades are the way to go. Boring CNN link for pros and cons: https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/14/us/underground-power-lines-trnd/index.html

    Sorry for the lack of snark, I’ll be back to my old “get off my lawn” self in 2021 – Can’t be worse!?!?!

    1. Or be like Norman and protest tree trimming 6 months before being left in the dark for a week because the tree limbs fell on the lines.

  9. During the 12 days I was without power one of the lessons I learned
    (besides realizing just how addicted I was to the Internet) was that
    instead of regular flashlights, what is super handy is to use a battery
    powered light that straps around your head.
    I had one that takes (3) AAA batteries, is adjustable tilt, and has a high
    and low beam. It made everything easier by freeing up your hands to
    do other things.

    I also discovered how disappointing the radio channels are. Seemed
    like there was nothing interesting no matter how hard or how often I
    tried different channels.

    As far as blaming OG & E though like what apparently is so common,
    I actually consider it quite a feat to get such a large area back in power.
    If anything I blame the fact that birds love to sit on the fences and on
    power lines and take a crap. People don’t deliberately plant trees along the fence line and so forth. They just spring up on their own
    thanks to the bird droppings and the fact that the lawn doesn’t get mowed close enough to the fence.

    People think “What the hell – a shade tree in the backyard might be cool.” So the years go by and they just grow and grow.
    I was quoted $4000. to cut the branches lower on about three trees
    that are growing along the property line where I live.

    I thought it was pretty coincidental that OG & E recently sent out
    letters announcing that they had partnered with a service that’ll will
    insure your power lines and so forth for a monthly fee.
    The timing on those announcements couldn’t have been better.

    I’m curious as to how they’re going to go about disposing of all the
    fallen limbs across the city. I hope to see some videos of it once the operation is in full gear.

    That is the main reason we have so many damn trees.

  10. This is Oklahoma. That’s the basic problem here. If you go back and look at pictures of what the land area that became Oklahoma looked like when it was opened for settlement, one thing sticks out like a sore thumb: there are NO trees! Yes, maybe along creeks and in deep canyons, but for the most part the land was completely barren of any trees at all.

    And that is basically because like everywhere in the Great Plains, the climate is not conducive to trees in any way. Prairie fires, ice storms, tornadoes, thunderstorms, cold fronts and dry lines, all contribute to the fact that it is VERY difficult or impossible for any tree to live very long. But when people settled the land and built cities, they brought in all sorts of non-native trees so that they could have a little shade and comfort, not realizing that these trees cannot stand up to our climate, whether it be falling from ice or snow or any other natural phenomena.

    And with global warming meaning that we now have less snow storms and more ice storms occurring on a pretty regular basis now, the problem will only get worse, so we are just going to have to live with it.

    1. Yep, very few trees here before settlement, partially due to fires set by the original inhabitants.
      Also, no concrete, no asphalt, no roofing – all of those covering – what? – about 40% of the city’s core? So I have never understood this point that, since the trees weren’t widespread before our prairie cities, they have no place here now.
      Trees make the city livable. They reduce run-off. They, along with the oceans, bring you the very oxygen you breathe. And they provide habitat for non-human creatures. On my block, with very large trees, the temp in summer is typically very noticeably cooler – sometimes around 10 degrees – than surrounding blocks with no trees.
      Non-native trees are sometimes much better at adapting to urban conditions like compacted soil than the native ones. Most of these trees stand up to our climate really well, until a freak ice storm beats the hell out of them. I have had huge damage. I am still very happy for the trees around here.
      But Glen, cut all yours down and mow that bermuda like it’s a religion. Maybe it’s the smart thing to do.

      1. To expand, our lawns are the most heavily fertilized and pesticides acreage in the country. Around here, you see see the sprinkler systems dumping hundreds of gallons of water onto the streets any old day of the week for much of the year. The mowers and gas edgers and leaf blowers are very dirty little engines – contributing much, much more pollution to the air than even SUV’s, so that they are major contributors to the global climate change that is producing more of the wild weather swings.
        So, grouse about climate change all you want. Some of those lawn chemicals people use end up in our waterways, causing algae blooms and creating a dead zone stretching 100 miles out into the Gulf. The cost of a lawn to you won’t be as readily apparent as when a ice damaged tree takes out your power, but the cost is there all the same.

  11. OGE was good about trimming along power lines several years ago. I noticed the last few years that many areas needed to be done, OGE waited too long and this is the result.

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