Got power? You may not, but your neighbors might. Why?

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As of Wednesday afternoon, about a third of AEP’s Franklin County customers are still without power. In some neighborhoods lights may go on tonight as other homes stay dark. WOSU set out to find out why this happens.

Inside my apartment near downtown the blinds are open to let in some light. About a dozen candles are placed in several areas of my home so I can see when the sun goes down. A small battery powered radio sits on the ironing board that has not been used since the weekend.

It’s been three days since I’ve had power. I have water, but it’s not hot. This morning I heated water on my gas stove so I could bathe before going to work.

If I walk outside my apartment building, across the street my neighbors in their condos all the amenities: hot water, light, cold food, television…and that begs the question: Why are there spotty areas? Could you explain it in layman’s terms as to how that happens?

WOSU posed that question to AEP communications director Terri Flora.

“Circuits that serve neighborhoods are not necessarily neat squares. They’re often jagged and go in areas where our lines go. And our lines often have devices on them that help protect customers from outages. So for an example, if you’re neighbor across the street has power and you do not that could be the very end of the circuit. You’re on a different circuit that serves your neighborhood than you’re neighbor itself,” Flora said.

Carl White lives a few miles north of Downtown. He lives in Clintonville and since the weather is nice he rode his bike down to a video store in Victorian Village. White’s in the same boat as others: some of his neighbors have power, he does not.

“I’m thinking I’m going over there tonight, and I’m going to tell them I don’t like them anymore. (laughter) No. You know, what’s to think. Somebody’s got a better cut than I do, you know? It’ll happen sooner or later,” he said.

White said he’s actually a little shocked that anyone in Clintonville has power with so many trees toppled to the ground.

AEP has an answer for White. The devices Flora mentioned that are on the line to help protect customers from losing power are part of the reason why some people do not have power while others near him do.

“When I talk about devices that are on the line, it helps segment circuits so that if there is an outage or a fault, it allows the rest of the circuit to go back in except for the area that has the fault. So that is why you often see sometimes spotty not complete areas without power,” Flora said.

AEP has tried to give people an idea of when they can expect their power to be restored. But that’s a guess at best. In looking at the map on AEP’s website and in the newspaper, inner city and older neighborhoods seem to have the worst luck. AEP said places like Minerva Park, Linden, the Near East Side, the South Side and South East may not have lights until as late as Sunday.

“I can assure you by no means are we looking to pick on one part of a community over another. That’s not what we do,” Flora said.

A neighborhoods’ infrastructure and its maturity has a lot to do with how fast service comes back on. Older neighborhoods tend to have overhead power lines susceptible to mature trees that can fall on them. Flora said areas like this can take longer to fix.

“What we look at is, again, back to overhead and underground, more trees, less trees. How are those customers served? And how quickly can we get more on as fast as we can? And we’re also noticing in these areas that we don’t have the case where we can fix one problem and all of them come back in, we have to fix hundreds of problems to get hundreds of customers back in. And that takes time,” she said.

Back in Victorian Village, Carl White walks into the video store and chats with the guy at the counter. He’s not letting the power outage dim his fun.

“If it’s been three days, it could be any length of time. If they can’t get it back quick why it’s going to take – who knows? I didn’t wait home today for it to come on. I’m out riding my bike today having a good time,” White said.