CINCINNATI - Our newsroom has received dozens of calls and emails from understandably frustrated Duke Energy customers the past few days, sweltering for two days with no electricity and no air conditioning.
This latest outage, four years after the massive Hurricane Ike power outage, has many people in Ohio and other affected areas wondering why these outages can't be prevented.
And if it seems like we have more violent storms these days, we do, according to the National Weather Service. We are not debating whether there is manmade global warming, that is another topic. But storms have been more damaging the past 10 years (Hurricane Irene, Ike, Alabama tornados, etc) than in the four decades before that.
In addition, with iPads, smartphones, and zonal heat pumps and air conditioning these days, we are so much more dependent on electricity than our grandparents were 50 years ago. They just opened windows and hung the laundry out on a clothesline when the power went out. It was no big deal.
Why does this keep happening?
Power goes out in a major windstorm for one simple reason, according to Duke and PUCO officials: trees hit power lines. In some cases, the lines may be knocked down by a tornado, but in a windstorm it's typically trees hitting the lines, either knocking down the wires or pulling the wire from the transformer.
You may not be able to see a wire down, but if it's been hit, it usually triggers a breaker on a pole which then needs to be reset.
There are two ways to prevent this:
1. Bury all power lines underground (to a cost of millions of dollars). CNN says Germany has buried all its power lines, and rarely has an outage due to a storm.
2. Clear cut all trees so they are 15 feet back from the trees (which homeowners would protest).
Can you sue your utility?
With many people losing $200 or more of food, not to mention the inconvenience, the question always comes up in cases like this. Can you sue your utility for losses?
You can sue anyone, but you are not going to win.
Courts routinely throw out suits over losses from power failures. That's because you actually have a contract with Duke or your other utility, called a "tariff." It plainly states that they are not responsible for losses due to power failure.
If you could sue and win over your lost food, every Walmart, mall, grocery store, and company that lost power could sue for lost business. The utility would be liable for billions in losses. And guess who would pay? You.
This article explains the legal reason why you are not going to win in court.
2 Possible Ways to Get Reimbursed
If you purchase a refrigerator with an extended warranty, you may be covered for up to $200 in food loss. Check the warranty contract for details.
You m ay be able to get reimbursed for lost food by your insurance company, though you may have to pay a $500 deductible, making it a moot point.
So buy some new food, and maybe a generator, and don't waste your time... or your money.
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