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Ennis Daily News

Recovering from a storm

That was quite a light show Friday.
Still not used to the peculiarities of Texas’ weather, one of my cats was climbing the walls at 4 a.m., screaming bloody murder and clawing at the front door as if she was trying to get out Friday. In a half-asleep state, the lightning outside wasn’t enough by itself — the cat’s crazed meows gave me the drive I needed to peel myself out of my bed and toward the coffee pot.
Then I noticed just how weird it looked outside. Still dark, the sky had the green tint of a particularly rough storm, and my wife told me she’d rather I didn’t go out. I know why she said that. She knows why I said that of all times, a situation like that was exactly the kind I had to be at work to cover. With weather like that bearing down on Ennis, there would be a story to get out.
Little did I know that Mother Nature had other plans for downtown Ennis and the Ennis Daily News. Those plans became clear when downtown’s traffic lights came into view as I tooled up Ennis Avenue. Downtown was blacked out.
I was the only one at the paper for about a half an hour. I sat in the dark for a little while, sipping my coffee and making a game plan while waiting for our press operator to make his daily appearance a half hour before business hours officially began. Then came our office manager, composing manager, the advertising staff and the rest of our newsroom. We had that sinking feeling of a news organization treading water. No power meant no computers, no Internet and no ability to put out a paper. Even our digital phones were useless. The ladies from the VFW came by with cookies, and that was a nice surprise.
Cell phones still worked, so we gathered up information about what was going on as other downtown businesspeople gathered on corners and conversed. I had the stray thought that a situation like what happened Friday has the unintended benefit of getting us all to socialize for a little while, but bigger fish needed frying. When all was said and done, people on the street would still expect to see the Ennis Daily News and our coverage of what had happened.
It’s my understanding that lightning struck a pole in downtown, narrowly missing a transformer but tripping a switch on Oncor’s transmission system.
We were without juice for more than three hours. City Hall was up and running quickly, sending trucks out to respond to various reports of problems.
We managed. After a host of issues caused by the loss of power to the paper, we got the newsprint out on the street, and it reminded me a little of a column Jane Mize wrote about teamwork — we would definitely have been up a creek with no paddle if we hadn’t been able to pull together when it was most necessary.
Not all stories were good, however. One resident who lives on West Belknap Street called up to the paper at nearly 2 p.m., and I was greeted by the voice of a woman who sounded like she really needed help.
Come to find out, her rotary phone (the only one working in her house because of the outage in downtown) was not working with Oncor’s automated power outage reporting line. Go figure — some Einstein decided that, with digital phones likely being unavailable during a power outage, using a touch-tone reporting line would be a great way to go about things.
That is absolutely amazing corporate efficiency at work there.
Throwing a little newspaper muscle behind this woman’s pleas for a little power got Oncor on the case within the hour. That was probably the brightest spot of Friday for me here at the EDN. Getting out a good newspaper was a good point, for sure, but reaching out and helping somebody that needed a little intervention and being able to make something happen for her was by far the best part of all of it.
Nick Todaro is the editor of the Ennis Daily News and can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Aug 26 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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