I have lived through five hurricanes, three of them here and two in New Jersey. And they are terrible. But because of those experiences I have seen the positive impact undergrounding has made in communities where power lines were buried verses those where power polls still existed with overhead lines and transformers.
Like Palm Beach, the town in New Jersey where I have a home is also located on a barrier island. Undergrounding has been going on there for years. Today, new construction on the island requires services to be automatically undergrounded. The reason is because of undergrounding benefits: reliability and safety.
When we have had storms, the sections of town that did not have undergrounding experienced downed wires and utility services cut off for long periods of time. But, in areas where undergrounding was in place, there were no outage problems. Undergrounding did the job it was supposed to.
Where my home is situated, I am fortunate enough to have undergrounding and have a transformer on my property. It’s not an eyesore as some are portraying it here.
During the three hurricanes that hit the Palm Beach area in 2004-2007, I was a volunteer in the Town Emergency Operations Center answering phones. Hurricane Wilma was really bad. We had power out for two to three weeks in Palm Beach. I stayed in the EOC and my wife stayed with friends in RiverWalk in West Palm. RiverWalk has underground utilities and they had power the entire time. We did not.
Long power outages in Palm Beach can cause mold problems because there isn’t air conditioning running to keep the humidity and moisture under control.
It doesn’t take long for mold to begin to grow. Mold that’s not only visible on exterior walls of our homes but behind plaster boards where you can’t see it.
Mold appeared everywhere because of the power outage during Wilma - on our leather chairs and every leather belt and pair of shoes we own. Mold can’t be ignored and must be treated – often at great expense -- for health reasons, before anyone can return and live safely in their home.
The cost to clean up mold is much more expensive than the assessment we will pay for undergrounding. Keeping the power on with undergrounding is safer and cheaper.
As a Palm Beach resident in the south end of town, I understand not every condominium owner is in favor of undergrounding. But based upon my personal experience, I know there are many health and safety related benefits to underground utilities. Vote yes on the referendum.
Resident of Palm Beach