Friday, August 15, 2014

Pretty vs. practical

    When pretty competes with practical, pretty often loses.
    Tuesday’s thunderstorm that knocked out power to northern Blaine County for nearly 2.5 hours at 5:35 p.m. demonstrated why practical will likely prevail in the contest between a pretty, expensive underground backup power line and a practical one that’s above ground—or no backup at all.
    When the lights went out, nothing worked. With Ketchum’s Main Street choked with traffic poised for the south-valley commute, stoplights suddenly went dark along with stores and restaurants. In the busiest month of the year, many shops and restaurants closed for safety and security reasons. Those that could operate reverted to cash transactions. Many looking for an evening restaurant meal rushed to Hailey where power was on. All ended well with lights back on by 8 p.m.
    After first reporting no visible cause for the outage, Idaho Power later reported that blackened cross-arms on the line between Hailey and Ketchum indicated that lightning had struck a pole, which caused the line to shut itself down. Idaho Power said that a backup transmission line could have prevented the outage.
    A redundant power line proposed to serve the Sun Valley area will not be pretty compared to the landscape along state Highway 75 where it’s slated to run, unless one’s taste runs to mechanical more than natural beauty. New power poles, taller than existing ones and of a different design, would double the industrial aesthetic along the highway.
    It’s unlikely that our area can raise the estimated $1 million per mile cost to bury the lines underground.
    Murphy’s Law, which says that what can go wrong will go wrong, has many extensions, but one is “at the worst possible moment.” In a world that comes to a halt without electrical power, practical will win out over pretty. Ugly power lines will look a lot prettier every time the lights flicker instead of going out.

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