Frustration over power outage; I&M official responds

Nearly 71,000 Indiana Michigan Power customers in Indiana are still without electricity, but less than 400 St. Joseph County families are affected.

For I&M outage map, click here

Most of the repairs that still need to be made following that big rainstorm Friday afternoon are in the Fort Wayne area, where over 68,000 people remain without power Sunday afternoon.

I&M expects all the power to be restored in St. Joseph County by late Sunday night, although people in Fort Wayne probably won't have all of their electricity back on until late Wednesday night.

For those still without power, the wait has been tedious. No power means no air conditioning and no refrigeration. And with temperatures around 90-degrees, the wait for electricity couldn't end soon enough.

WSBT on Sunday spoke with a South Bend woman upset it took so long for I&M to fix the power in her neighborhood. The woman, who asked to be anonymous, said she was not concerned about her own family, but instead a 7-year-old boy down the street born with severe cerebral palsy.

The boy needs monitors that alert his parents if he has seizures, and his medications have to be refrigerated. She questioned why I&M failed to take the boy's health seriously, calling it "unacceptable."

Fortunately, the family was able to get a generator brought in, because without it, they would have had to find some other place to live during the power outage.

What infuriated the woman even more was to see repair crews come and go so quickly Sunday morning. She counted more than 44 hours from the time the power went out Friday to the time I&M turned it back on in her neighborhood, and it seemed to be done with a simple click of the switch.

In an e-mail to the WSBT newsroom, I&M Director of Communications David Mayne said: "In a major storm restoration like this one, we cannot promise priority restoration to those households, even if we are aware of the special needs in the home. That is why we strongly advise these households to have an emergency plan. It is important for households with special needs to think about where they would go in the event of a tornado or prolonged power outage, or heaven forbid, their very home is damaged by a storm and they cannot stay there."

"We understand the frustration during long outages and we are working diligently to get power restored to all customers," Mayne added.

Mayne asked a customer service representative to contact the concerned customer who spoke with WSBT Sunday morning.

 

IN ANOTHER STORM-RELATED FOLLOW-UP:

Amanda Bolinger's house took the brunt of Friday's storm as it roared through the small town of Inwood in Marshall County.

A large tree fell on the home's front porch and knocked out power. Not a big deal for Amanda, but definitely a concern for her 94-year old great grandma.

NIPSCO offered to take her to a shelter until a crew could restore power, but the oldest resident of Inwood didn't want to leave her home. So the family played the waiting game for nearly a day and a half.

"We feel like, you know, we're not a priority because it's only us," said Bolinger.

Unfortunately she's right. Most electric companies prioritize repairs the same way.

First they repair any damage to the main lines. Then crews repair the damage that affects the next largest group of customers. Third the smaller clusters of homes are repaired and crews then finish with individual homes like the Bolinger's.

Of course there's a lot of ways that a storm can knock out the power at your house. But here's something that some people may not know. It's typically the electric company's job to get power to your house but not necessarily into it.

Here's an example, say a tree limbs breaks off in a storm. It falls down and takes out your electric meter. That would fall under the homeowner's responsibility to fix not the electric company’s.

Bolinger says she’s happy to only have to deal with a dark house.

"We were fortunate enough with this tree that it didn't come through into the home," said Bolinger. “It could have been a lot worse."

Electric companies urge anyone with special needs to stay with relatives or go to a shelter when there's a power outage. If someone doesn't want to or can't leave their home a generator can be a good back up if used properly.

Another thing to watch for during a power outage is spoiled food. Make sure to check anything for strange colors or smells before eating.

And never approach or touch a downed power line. Even if you think it’s not live or something other than an electrical line. Call your power company.