What Is More Annoying Than a Pepco Map Saying Power Will Be Out For at Least 100 Hours?

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Well, this is more annoying -- what the Pepco "outage map" has shown about electric supply in the nation's capital for the past eight twelve hours now:
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I can see the map, or see that there's no map, because I've left our house in DC to check into a hotel in Arlington, so I have electricity -- and heat! -- to finish an article.

I know this storm is an Act of God, I know it is force majeure, I know a warmer climate overall is making for colder and harsher winters in the US Northeast, I know that DC has a lot of lush and beautiful trees that cause hellacious problems during storms because they drape over power lines, I know that brave and beleaguered crews are out there in the cold and dark. I know that weather in some place you aren't is inherently boring. And I know that people have problems 1000x worse than this. But -- not even the outage map? This is a version of another "here's how to make people feel out of control and anxious" strategy: the Amtrak policy, in NYC's Penn Station, of making everyone stand around in a big herd and stare at the departure board, waiting for the last-minute announcement of which track a train will be on so they can all rush toward it, rather than announcing it earlier and letting people form a line. 


Earlier Pepco showed a shrewder PR approach with the map. It gave an estimated outage time of about 100 hours for much of DC and suburban Maryland -- and then improved it to 48 hours for a number of areas, making two nights without lights or heat seem like reason to rejoice.

Back to work. But, c'mon. Even a phony map would give us some little illusion of control. And I won't even get into my "collapsing American infrastructure" riff.

Update: Maps are back up, after only 16 hours of downtime. Showing that after two nights with no heat or power, much of Maryland and DC can expect two and a half nights more -- estimated on time is 11pm Sunday. Hmmm.

Update-update: Lights back on along our street and at our house after 45 hours. In the circumstances, expecting twice that long, I'm conditioned to say, "not that bad." Especially since I see, from the now-functioning service map, that there are scores of outages very close by. Solidarity with the 66,000 households in the DC area still in the dark and cold.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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