On Oct. 29, Halloween weekend, the autumn season masked as winter and brought to us a snowstorm that was very unusual for the season.

The Lehigh Valley got well over a half foot of snow. In Carbon County there were measurements of as much as 13 inches.

The snow was heavy and it quickly piled on tree branches which still had leaves. This caused not only branches but entire trees to topple. The fact that the ground wasn't frozen yet made trees more vulnerable to collapse under the weight of the snow.

The result was widespread power outages. There were people without electricity for a week or more.

At least one state lawmaker is proposing legislature which would make utilities pay for damages such as spoiled refrigerated food during such outages. This might not be a good idea.

Such weather occurrences are unpredictable. Even insurance companies get away with not paying claims for certain "acts of nature."

Also, how can such loss be proven? Who will determine the amount of the loss? Would an adjuster have visit the home of every claimant to assure that it was lobster and not trout lost in the freezer? Would damages include cleaning the freezer?

Just who would pay if such a policy were passed by state lawmakers? You're right if you say the customers of the utilities. Almost immediately rates would rise so a fund could be established to compensate storm victims.

Obviously if you were a victim of a long-term power outage, you're probably fuming over the seemingly slow response of the utility companies.

According to reports, there were some high-voltage power lines knocked down that took time to replace.

Another report is that utilities have been aided by some type of law which requires less clearance space between trees and power lines. If this is accurate, then there would be one law to give them leeway and another to punish them. Lawyers would make a lot of money arguing back and forth on these conflicting rules.

There must be some planning to make an effort that the marathon power outages which occurred beginning Oct. 29 don't happen any time soon. There might even be hearings held in which consumers can meeting with utility representatives and state lawmakers on the topic.

Meanwhile, hopefully lawmakers will scrap the proposal to make utilities liable for damages from power outages. It's too easy for such a policy to be abused, and would be too costly for utility customers in general.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com