Sep. 6th, 2011

Now that Hurricane Irene has passed, and homes and businesses on the Eastern seaboard have seen their utility service restored, persons living and working along the Atlantic coast are able to heave a sigh of relief. But with the remnants of Lee churning its way through the Deep South, Katia looming with at least some chance of making an impact, and the rest of the storm season still ahead of us, plenty of questions remain regarding what America should do, going forwards, regarding hurricane preparedness.

One of the most pressing questions relates to the question of whether utilities should be buried as opposed to strung overhead. Certainly burying lines costs more than the alternative – perhaps as much as an order of magnitude greater – but do underground utilities decrease the chances of outages during storms? If so, is it worth the premium to bury services in the first place? At what point does it become worthwhile to spend money to tear out perfectly usable lines and bury them?

To answer this question, we first must ask: what possessed us to run our water, gas, and drain lines overhead on poles in the first place?

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September 2012

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