An Elkhorn resident’s personal experience with Nebraska’s power outages

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Zach Gilbert
NEWS EDITOR

One Elkhorn woman shares her experience with February’s rolling blackouts and her fears for the future. Photo courtesy of GE Lighting.

Many Nebraskans hadn’t even heard of “rolling blackouts” prior to February 16, but soon enough, a vast portion of the population was exposed to the inconveniences of these events, often with little advance notice.

“I was first made aware of the possibility of rolling blackouts in general while watching the evening news,” said Sherry Georgi, an Elkhorn resident. “However, even though I experienced a rolling blackout myself on Tuesday, February 16 at 8:51 a.m., I was only informed about rolling blackouts in my area specifically by OPPD at 8:48 a.m.  – three minutes before my [power outage].”

The message Georgi received reiterated much of what she had heard on the news – the regional reliability coordinator was directing seventeen states to curtail energy to balance the supply and demand until the weather normalized, and OPPD apologized for issues that would arise. They also assured that they would only ever intentionally disconnect power in an emergency such as this.

While initially caught a bit off-guard, Georgi isn’t holding any grudges.

“Given the extreme strain on the system, I feel like they did the best they could in a very tough situation,” Georgi said. “It seems reasonable that a larger group of customers would accept a blackout for a short period of time as opposed to asking a smaller group to endure a blackout for an extended period of time.”

Thankfully, Georgi had also already taken precautions to conserve utilities after making note of what she had heard from local news stations. To prepare, she turned down her thermostat, refrained from running the dishwasher and delayed her loads of laundry.

In addition, Georgi maintains that the impact the rolling blackout had on her morning routine was minimal, compared to others.

“I merely read the newspaper without my usual cup of coffee, and I spent the following hour straightening up around the house,” Georgi said. “When my power was restored at 9:45 a.m., I fixed my coffee and reset the time on all of the alarm clocks and appliances.”

However, throughout this all, Georgi feared for what problems these power outages could pose for Elkhorn Public Schools (EPS) – the school district where she works as a teacher’s assistant – as administrators received a notification on February 16 that their buildings could be affected by the blackouts.

“An hour-long power outage at any school in the middle of the day – especially when lunches are served – is certainly more concerning than the hour in my residence without utilities,” Georgi said.

Fortunately, all schools in the EPS district were safe from the rolling blackouts when all was said and done, but Georgi remains worried for what’s to come.

“If this becomes more common in the future, the utility companies may need to determine if there are certain grids that are more problematic for rolling blackout situations – and therefore, they should be avoided,” Georgi said.

In the end, Georgi hopes that those in charge of the city’s power use this event as a learning lesson to plan for more effective procedures if these events were to occur again. And, above all else, she’s thankful that she and her family remained safe.

“Overall, I’m just glad that our power was restored quickly,” Georgi said. “Hopefully we won’t see such widespread low temperatures again for a long time.”

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