WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Irony of holiday outages at Christiana Mall

For the second time over this holiday shopping season (the first came on the morning of Black Friday), power went out in portions of Christiana Mall, and it took hours to get the lights back on. Neither appeared to be weather-related.
(Apparent cause of the latest outage: A defective underground cable)

For such outages to occur during the heart of the shopping season... Well, I can imagine some managers tearing out their hair.

In neither episode has it been fully established whether Delmarva Power or the Mall assumed primary responsibility. The two sides seemed to be pointing fingers at one another during the Black Friday outage.

Some Delmarva Power critics might very well be inclined to chalk these up to "Third World Power Company."

Certainly we can speculate. Is Christiana Mall - indeed that entire commercial area - expanding too rapidly for the existing infrastructure? Or for a broader theme: Is this yet another example of how power companies, in pursuit of ever increasing profits, are falling behind in maintenance of the existing infrastructure?

To cite a CNN story from a few years ago:

"Experts on the nation's electricity system point to a frighteningly steep increase in non-disaster-related outages affecting at least 50,000 customers. During the past two decades, such blackouts have increased 124 percent -- up from 41 blackouts between 1991 and 1995, to 92 between 2001 and 2005, according to research at the University of Minnesota..."

University of Minnesota Professor Massoud Amin, a top expert on the U.S. electricity grid, says the United States is still "operating the most advanced economy in the world with 1960s and 70s technology."

It's probably comparing apples & oranges to make reference to this in connection with the Christiana Mall outages. (Although perhaps the Christiana Mall situation represents the United States in microcosm: Not a finely tuned power grid, but a patchwork quilt of electrical systems stiched together.)

But I can't help but repeat my two fundamental questions:

Is the Christiana Mall expansion taxing the existing power infrastructure? Do U.S. power outages - particularly those which occur out of the blue, not necessarily the result of storms - and long delays in restoring power - reflect U.S. power companies maximizing profits rather than bolstering existing infrastructure?

Posted at 7:45am on December 12, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 8:25am
Apparently Allan Loudell and the angry old white people who listen to right-wing talk radio are the only ones who still go to shopping malls. Most of them are already closed and boarded up (or plowed under). Hasn't anybody here head of Amazon?

But to the main point: Power goes out a lot more than it used to (and for longer). And the media do not look at the problem or at the causes. Instead, they get power company flacks who offer "advice" to blacked-out customers - with the implied suggestion that customers are responsible. Plus the occasional feel-good story about the "nice" power company giving out dry ice. Are these power company shills ever held to account by the media for the poor reliability of their companies' systems? No, they are not! Probably because power companies buy ads. Just more evidence that the corporate media are corporate.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Dec 12, 2013 8:46am
Allan asked: "Is the Christiana Mall expansion taxing the existing power infrastructure? Do U.S. power outages - particularly those which occur out of the blue, not necessarily the result of storms - and long delays in restoring power - reflect U.S. power companies maximizing profits rather than bolstering existing infrastructure?"

I'd say yes to both. Just as the Mall has expanded over the years taxing the roads, which have just been improved to handle the load at that interchange, so too the electrical service/grid probably needs expanding too. DP&L probably needs to do some upgrading there.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Dec 12, 2013 8:55am
To address Billsmith's point: I rarely go to the mall, but when I've been dragged, kicking and screaming to that insane place [by my better half], it's filled with...............wait for it.........WOMEN, YOUNG WOMEN. There are some geezers there, but it's like 1 out of 1000 people. So yes, many young folks do buy at Amazon, but many young women are still shopping at the mall.

Guys generally hate to shop and find an Amazon a far less painless way to do shopping [I did some of my Christmas shopping that way this year], but women love the experience of looking, seeing friends, eating out, trying on clothes... the social side of shopping, etc., that doesn't happen with your computer or smart phone.

I don't predict the closing of Christiana Mall anytime soon.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 9:05am
(Apparent cause of the latest outage: A defective underground cable)

...So it wasn't over-taxation of the grid but a "faulty wire".

If there are concerns over lack of power maybe Markell should have them move Bloom Energy from Newark and over to the Mall LOL

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 11:36am
MikeFromDelaware: My first job (outside the family business) was in a department store - a real downtown department store with 14 sales floors (plus two basement store floors) taking up an entire city block. One of the first things I learned about the retail business, back in that classic setting, was 95 percent of the floor space was devoted to female purchasers. One example: Men's clothing was one-quarter of the second floor. Women's clothing was four entire floors.

Yes, women shop. Men need something; they go buy it. Stay tuned for Kavips to denounce that statement as sexist.

Not much has changed in how space is allocated in malls - except selection, service and merchandise quality have declined, and prices have gone up.

Not sure how these remaining malls make money. In addition to on-line sellers cutting into their business, big-box superstores have also taken a big chunk out of their trade. Not much left except teeny-bopper chicks hanging out.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Dec 12, 2013 1:28pm
Billsmith, obviously that department store wasn't in downtown Wilmington. That's a serious store.

What I don't know, is of all those ladies walking around the mall [because each time I've been there, it's way too crowded for me], how many actually buy stuff, other than latte's and food from the food court. The only stores there I actually buy things from: Target, Penney's, and Barnes and Noble.

As I said, now that you can buy Visa gift cards to use when buying stuff on-line, thus cutting back the risk of someone hacking your credit-card info from an on-line purchase, I've bought some books on-line from both Concordia Publishing and Augsburg Publishing. I've also bought some electronics from Amazon. I have to admit, it's a lot less hassle than going to the store and fighting the crowds on the highways, the parking lots, and inside the stores.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 3:53pm
MikeFromDelaware: Those are three of the big box stores that have taken over much of the retail business. Target started out as Dayton's Department Store in downtown Minneapolis (Mary Tyler Moore stood in front of it when she threw her hat in the air). The company started a "discount" chain and later sold off the department stores (they are now Macy's, like departments stores here and elsewhere).

Macy's, after swallowing up local department stores across the country, is running TV ads about how "we've been a part of your life for 150 years." It really annoys me. I haven't been around 150 years. And I did not grow up in New York, so Macy's has not been "a part of my life" except for the last few years. The ad's otherwise cool with clips from "Miracle on 34th Street" and other old movies and old TV shows. But still. They are like one of those invasive species. Besides, Macy's Inc. is headquartered in Cincinnati. It originally was Lazarus Department Store. Wilmington Dry Goods was founded by a J.M. Lazarus and I long wondered if he was any relation to the Cincinnati Lazarus family.

If those women in the mall aren't carrying packages, they probably aren't buying since stores don't have a fleet of trucks to deliver packages to customers any more.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 8:47pm
I used to go to Christiana Mall almost exclusively 30 years ago. However, times have changed and so have I. Back then, mall stores carried items that most of us wanted. Today, they cater to the "frivolous items" market. Most everything there is overpriced and useless for my tastes. As with Mike from Delaware, I too shop mostly on-line and the Mrs. shops at Dollar General.

Fri, Dec 13, 2013 7:33am
Pizza: Mrs. Shops? After all your gay bashing!

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