Friday, August 19, 2005

Power Outage on Jefferson Snarls Lunchtime Traffic And Closes Germantown Cafe

A little over an hour ago I was sitting in my car at the corner of Jefferson and 5th Ave. when I heard a hissing and popping sound above the intersection. I looked up to see a fire on top of one of the telephone poles. It was a little unnerving to watch--from less than 50 feet away--blue arcs about the size of a pitbull's head and orange flames shooting out a couple of feet, punctuated by a couple of loud, bejesus-scaring explosions.

The traffic lights snuffed out and traffic snarled. Police closed Jefferson between 4th and 5th Avenues. Power was knocked out both ways down Jefferson and down 5th into Salemtown. Germantown Cafe closed its doors and sent its staff home just as it was gearing up for its usually popular lunch hour (owners tell me they will be open for dinner tonight). The traffic snarled on Madison and 5th Ave., as disappointed lunch-breakers got in their cars and left all at once.

As I got back into Salemtown, I stopped to talk to an NES worker who told me that the problem was a switch that had caught on fire. The problem was fixed shortly after 12:30 p.m., and mercifully so, given the outdoor temperatures approaching 100 degrees today.


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  2. This happened a week or two ago as well, around midnight. It wasn't a normal outage power flickered off and on a few times an the lights had this shimmering flutter to them as the dirty power came flying through them.

    It's really bad when it happens at night, I've got 4 different battery backup units on my computers and equipment and they all start beeping off beat at once. argh.

  3. The other night when the electricity went out, I tried to report it to NES...I described the experience on my blog..since I'm not smart enough to be able to link directly to the post in question..I'm repeating it here..

    I sing the voice mail Electric - lost in the ohm-zone

    The lights started to flicker around 9:30. The central air was switching faster than Senator Frist in a stem cell debate. I was thinking that maybe the wiring in the new house had the 'haints', but I looked outside and saw the streetlight shimmering like sister Kate. I called NES and after a few rings descended into the 4th circle of hell - voice mail lotto. I punched the option that would allow me to report a problem. They asked me to enter my full 10 digit phone number. I did. The response: You live at 20. If you do not live at 20, please enter your 10 digit number again. Considering I'm not even sure where 20 is, and that my address is not 20 and I live on 5th Avenue, I re-entered my phone number thinking that I had fat-fingered my number the first time...nope, I still lived at 20 according to that automated non-response response.

    So I hung up and dialed again. I tried a different tack which was to take the option reporting a transformer fire. This was technically somewhat of a misleading tack, because I didn't really see any flames, but I had seen a few sparks. This time I was taken to an response that told me that NES was not open for business and that business hours were blah blah blah. I tried one more time and got to an option where I could leave a message. By this time my lights were entirely out and I was pretty teed off because I couldn't find the matches and therefore couldn't see into the closet where the flashlights had carefully been hidden...sheesh.

    I did leave a message. 3 hours later, an NES truck rumbled down the street and unfurled a ladder reaching to the transformer in question. Lights were back on in about 30 minutes.

    I found out later my neighbor also left a message and that NES called her at 4:00 AM to let her know that the electricity was back on.

    I was grateful that the electricity was restored, but I gotta wonder how screwed up the NES phone system has to be and why can't there be a human to talk to, even at night. I'm guessing that NES could afford to pay a few peeps to answer the phones considering that the hourly wages in Delhi are still not all that high....