Power to the people – Working for the weekend

Sunday is the new magic target date for those who still don’t have power. As long as you understand that it’s just a day, and setting it as a magic target date doesn’t actually mean anything.

CenterPoint finished work Friday in neighborhoods where most power is restored, and prepared to swarm harder-hit areas this weekend with the goal of bringing light to hundreds of thousands of customers by Sunday night.

Company officials have said they expect most customers will get power back when crews complete repairs to major lines — removing trees from wires, restringing wires on poles when necessary and energizing the lines.

“We expect to see a huge improvement in outage count by the end of the weekend,” CenterPoint spokesman Floyd LeBlanc said Friday when about 377,000 customers of 2.3 million still were without power because of Hurricane Ike.

Even if CenterPoint accomplishes this, it doesn’t mean every customer will have power. The company expects that transformer issues and problems with individual line drops to homes and businesses will linger for at least another week.

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking the folks who are in that 377,000 number are getting a little tired of hearing this refrain. I know CenterPoint can’t say when an individual customer will get power back, and they can’t say for sure when they’ll be done. But it just feels to me like they’ve done a poor job of managing expectations, in part precisely because they have pushed back the date of when they say they’ll be well and truly finished. I don’t think that ZIP code map helped all that much, either. It’s a nasty problem for them, and honestly I don’t know how they could have done much better, but I still think they needed to. The upcoming legislative review is going to be a minefield for them.

On a side note, business has been good for the restaurants that were able to overcome various Ike-related problems, like power outages of their own, staffers who couldn’t make it in, and a broken supply chain.

Hurricane-weary Houstonians — already known for frequently dining out — increasingly turned to area restaurants for hot meals in the days and weeks post-Ike. To feed the long lines of hungry and often powerless Houstonians, restaurateurs overcame obstacles of their own, such as displaced staff, inconsistent supplies, damage or loss of utilities.

Two weeks after Ike, restaurants are starting to return to normal, although some still can’t find ingredients and service still can be spotty.

But not as spotty as they were in the first days after Ike.

“As we would run out of things, I would come up with other things to serve,” said [Jack] Gregory, [whose restaurant The Daily Grind] operates out of a renovated 90-year-old general store. “It was chaotic. People had to wait a long time, but they were appreciative.”

After operating the restaurant in the wake of Hurricane Rita, Gregory knew what to expect. He stocked up on eggs, produce and disposable plates in the hours before the storm.

Although restaurateurs had to pay more for paper products or invest in a generator, those that could open reported an increase in business in the aftermath.

The atmosphere at Berryhill’s that first time we visited after returning to town was as festive as it was crowded. I think people were just happy to get out of the house and forget about everything else for awhile. Given how hard a storm like Ike can be on small businesses, I’m glad to hear so many of these places managed to do well despite it all.

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One Response to Power to the people – Working for the weekend

  1. NicoleAllee says:

    You’re not crazy. I’ve had 4 different “target dates” in 6 days and am still without power.

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