Storm Whips up Miscommunications

Storm Whips up Miscommunications

August 22, 2002

With only scattered sprinkles of rain over the past two weeks, one Mount Vernon District couple still has vivid reminders of the storms that blew through the area Aug. 1 and 3.

During the latter storm, Carol and Paul Ketrick had a large tree topple over on their property at the intersection of Collingwood Road and Cedardale Drive. And with it went both their power and cable television lines.

"We got the power back in 48 hours, but the power lines were dangling close to the ground, and the cable lines were on the ground," said Carol Ketrick.

That's when their who-said-what communications dispute began with Dominion Virginia Power and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The latter finally came last weekend to remove the downed limbs from the roadway. But the confusion with the power company only got worse, according to Ketrick.

Complicating the dialogue was the fact that the regular power company repair crews have been on strike, and the storm placed extra demands on their management replacements. This was exacerbated by the fact that the falling tree had dislodged a primary element of the home's electrical network that is not normally repaired by the power company.

"During the storm the tree pulled the eye bolt out of the house. This is the object that connects above-ground power lines to the building electrical system. It is normally the responsibility of the property owner to have that replaced by a private electrician before we restring the lines," explained Le Ha Anderson, Dominion Virginia Power community/media relations manager.

"When our service crew originally went to the Ketrick home, they did not have an eye bolt on the truck. Under normal circumstances, when this happens, we ask the customer to come to the warehouse, and we will give them one. It is our policy to supply the part. However, with the strike, we did not want them crossing the picket line," Anderson clarified.

"Our service person explained this at the initial visit and also left a note. But, apparently there was some miscommunication. Because of that, we are going to go ahead and install the eye bolt and re-establish the power lines at their proper height," she assured.

ANDERSON EXPLAINED that the power company does not usually install the eye bolt when it is dislodged because their work is restricted to the outside of the house.

In the Ketrick's situation the bolt was still attached but dangling, allowing the lines to swing dangerously close to the ground. The television cable was actually on the ground. This will be repaired by the cable company after the power lines are secured, Ketrick verified.

As of last Thursday night, a tentative agreement was reached with the union to settle the strike, according to Anderson. "Monday, the 19th, was the first day our union representatives were back. We will get the Ketricks fixed by Wednesday [yesterday]," Anderson promised.

"For the most part we were able to handle our day-to-day operations very well during the strike without customer inconvenience. But there have been some miscommunications," she admitted.

The other casualty of the storm's fury for the Ketricks is their picket fence. "My husband was in the process of rebuilding it when the tree also crushed a large section of his handiwork. But, that is definitely up to us to repair," Ketrick said.