“Expect wind gusts up to 90 km/h.”
That’s the weather forecast for the Montreal region — the St. Lawrence Valley — tonight, along with rain and temperatures that will fall from plus 5 or 6C to minus 7C or so.
No doubt, with the strong winds will come power outages that will range from minutes to hours to days for some — even weeks in worst-case remote settings.
Hydro-Quebec will have emergency crews on standby, and they will work around the clock — many on overtime rates — restoring electricity to perhaps hundreds of thousands of clients through the province.
It’s all too predictable, because it happens time and time again. Anytime there is a huff and a puff of strong winds, tree branches and hydro wires comes tumbling down — not just in Quebec, but anywhere that still has an above-ground power grid.
Of course, the financial district of Montreal, the downtown core, won’t lose power because all the power lines are buried underground — unless the big transmission towers in the north are damaged, like they were in the Great Ice Storm of 1998, when only one line was bringing in power to the city. Still, even then, the newspaper I worked for based in Old Montreal had electricity throughout the five waves of freezing rain that struck the province from Jan. 4 to Jan. 10.
So, what lesson did we learn from that disaster, which led to 35 fatalities and saw some people lose their electricity for months? What lessons have we learned from every power outage since then that was caused by a temperamental Mother Nature?
Actually, I should say what lesson did Hydro-Quebec and the government of Quebec learn? (Hydro-Quebec is a government-owned public utility, which reaps in mega-profits both from the local population and from energy exports.)
Did Hydro-Quebec and the government of Quebec embark on a mission to bury ALL the power lines in the province so that people’s home won’t lose their electricity every time there’s a big huff and a puff of wind?
I asked a Hydro-Quebec worker about it one day, when he was repairing a downed line in my neck of the woods. He laughed when I suggested the utility — owned by the taxpayers — might consider burying all wires you currently see strung across the land.
“That would cost them money,” he said, sarcastically.
He didn’t need to expand on his point. It costs them less to pay crews to restore downed lines than it would to actually bury the lines and eliminate the possibility of said huffs and puffs blowing their system apart. They can’t see past their bottom lines.
And they don’t seem to be considering that maybe the public wouldn’t mind if they spent the massive profits they make — our money! — on making the system much more secure by burying all lines, including the one that connect to your house.
Nope. Better to keep applying bandages when Mother Nature shows them time and time again that their system is about as sturdy as a pretzel in the grand scheme of things.
And you know some of the Hydro executives will probably be getting performances bonuses . . .
Oh, then there’s the matter of the neverending rounds of Hydro rate increases . . . What’s that all about (hint: see preceding sentence)?