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Street Talk

Ice Storm Ruled Out As Outage Cause

By Mickey Howley

As I sit here writing this week’s column, electrical power in the city of Water Valley is out. You might remember the last outage the city saw September 9, 2009 when a dump truck pulled down feeder lines and several poles causing an afternoon long power outage.

I don’t know what the reason is for the this outage; wind damage, car accident, lightning strike, hopefully it is not the dump truck again and I’m pretty sure it is not ice related, but I’m not too worried. My sweat glands still function well, there is cool water in the tap and the laptop has a full charge. And the city has a very good track record of fixing these random incidents.

Of the essential services and infrastructure a city provides for its residents, clean water and sewer are the highest. It is a simple matter of health, and towns back to time of the Pharaohs had water and sewer infrastructure. But electricity is much newer. Water Valley was electrified in 1907.  The town was initially generating its own power, and this was well ahead of most of the state and region. Electricity is constantly generated. Other than batteries, electricity must be used as soon as it is created.  And this means that the power running your refrigerator was made just moments ago by a turbine generator many miles from here.  And we are using more and more electricity. Consumption of electrical power has steadily risen, and so the infrastructure bringing it to your business or house has to be updated.

Most of our historic commercial buildings were built well before electricity and so even the earliest porcelain insulated wiring was an addition. Most of these buildings have gone through three technology updates, and many of the newer rehabilitations mark the fourth time the building has been re-wired. That is a complete change over every 30 to 40 years. It is not a bad thing because the technology is getting better and safer, and it is not a case where the old way was superior. Circuit breakers are safer than glass fuses and ground fault interrupt outlets save shocks and lives.

The costs of these upgrades are largely borne by the business and building owners.  Features like sconce and track lighting and wireless Internet are the flashy stuff, but every business downtown uses electricity for A/C, computers, and equipment, and there is hardly a business function that does not depend on electricity.

The new wave of technological changes in electrical use downtown is low draw lighting, such as the already common compact fluorescents, and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Changes like hourly rated service, where you are charged more for usage in peak hours versus discounted rates for usage during off peak times will affect businesses in the future. And the trend is to put transmission lines underground where they are safer, less damage prone, and out of sight.

Watermelons are officially in at the Farmers Market. Tomatoes are still going strong. I did a recent personal taste test, from the shiniest red tomatoes to the speckled mottled ones and all were very good to absolutely fantastic. Just hard to beat fresh when it comes to taste.

Charles Rogers did not have his 10 thousand pound steel smoker last week at the market, but he did have his delicious smoked Mississippi pork. Just to note, the power came back on halfway through writing this article. All is well.

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