published Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Big cost of local storms

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    EPB operator O'Fair Brooks, left, and EPB lineman Charles Sales replace a utility pole near the intersection of Mountain View Avenue, and Crest Drive after a severe storm uprooted trees and damaged area homes. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

We in Chattanooga — and others in nearby and distant parts of our country — have been painfully and expensively affected by weather extremes in recent months.

There have been intense storms and tornadoes over large sections of the United States.

In the Chattanooga area, many still are counting the cost of the damage to their homes and other buildings, as well as to trees.

High-dollar repairs are already under way. The costs surely will be reflected in rising insurance premiums and expenses to local government, and there will be many unremunerated personal losses as well.

While it obviously will be impossible to tally up with certainty the full cost of local weather damage, our Electric Power Board, whose lines were heavily damaged by wind and falling trees, is seeking a 5 percent increase in power rates, effective July 1. The utility had approximately $30 million in losses related to recent storms.

It is estimated that a customer with a normal monthly bill of $100 will see an added $4.58 charge. That will be the first power rate increase by EPB for its 170,000 business and residential customers in four years.

EPB workers have done a remarkable job restoring service. And local government workers have done well clearing up damage, minimizing danger and dealing with other weather-related problems that have arisen in recent weeks and months.

There has been great relief when light, heat, air conditioning and refrigeration have come back on, usually rapidly, but sometimes after several days of disruption. But in some parts of our community, there is still much damage to be cleared.

We often like to think we are pretty much “in control” of many facets of our lives. But we have been reminded that nature’s forces are tremendous and beyond human control in most respects. And now it is quite clear that the ravages of nature, in addition to being uncontrollable, are costly.

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