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Infrastructure major reason for outages

For my dad, it was as

close to the lake of

fire and brimstone as you can get without taking that final dip.

But he wasn’t budging.

After the big storm, the power was out at his house in Stafford County.

And it was hot. Darn hot.

He did a tour of duty on Vietnam in the late 1960s and he didn’t like the heat and humidity then. Now that he’s about to turn 80, he doesn’t like sweltering in Stafford any better.

His cable bundled “landline” was also out.

Worse, he couldn’t watch his beloved San Francisco Giants on cable, or even check the score on the Internet.

That’s about as bad as it gets.

But he refused to leave home and go where he could be cool and watch the game because his dachshund, Bentley, doesn’t like to ride in the car.

People sometimes perish in hurricanes because they refuse to leave their pets, he said. Apparently they do this because their pets get car sick, and a dead pet is better than a queasy pet.

I reminded him that Dorothy was carried away by the twister because Toto refused to be a sitting duck—and bolted.

I told him that if I had to write his obit, I’d say his last words were, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

But there was no sense in arguing. I gave him a recharging device for his cellphone so he could check Giants scores or my stepmother could call for an ambulance.

But his cell service had been knocked out. Well, it was down for the count. Thankfully, my stepmother later wandered around the driveway until she found a spot where she could make calls.

They have AT&T. And they usually get pretty good reception, even though they live in a rural part of the county.

Unlike some people, I don’t expect cellphone carriers and power companies to dispatch Superman to fix widespread damage in the blink of an eye. So I was more perturbed with Dad and Bentley than AT&T.

Power and cell service returned in a couple of days and there was no obit to write.

Audrey Chang, a spokeswoman for AT&T, told me her company had teams deploying generators and repairing storm damage as fast as they could. So did Verizon Wireless and other carriers. They actually did a good job under the circumstances. “We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers and continue to closely monitor and help coordinate recovery efforts,” Chang said.

Here’s the thing. The big storm was not a signal that AT&T and Verizon and Comcast and Cox don’t care about their customers, as frustrating as it has been.

It was a warning that we’d better get serious about modernizing our nation’s infrastructure. Most of the phone and cable outages were probably the result of loss of power resulting from fallen trees knocking down power lines. Those lines should be underground. We need to shore up our electrical grid.

But experts estimates are that will cost from $5 million to $15 million per mile. And many don’t seem to want that cost passed on to them in their electric bill or in the form of higher taxes for government investment in infrastructure.

If they don’t want to pay for that, then they’d better learn to be patient. Because as the grid ages, this is going to happen again and again.

And veterans who survived Vietnam and other wars will perish because a tree downed a power line in places like Stafford.

Forgive me for sounding like the Wicked Witch of the West: And their little dogs, too.

Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163