Preparing for winter power outages

Blacksburg, Va., Dec 3 — LIGHTS OUT: The Alleghany neighborhood is one of the many Blacksburg communities experiencing blackouts. Photo: Samantha Hamilton

by Samantha Hamilton–

Families in the New River Valley are experiencing power outages that are believed to be a result of the temperature drops Southwest Virginia is currently experiencing. The outages have affected areas such as Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, Fairlawn, Shawsville, and some neighborhoods in Roanoke.

 “Usually power outages are a result of insufficient generation online to support the high demand surrounding them,” said technical electrician Antoine Holland.

Home electric power systems are made to withstand extreme weather in most cases says Holland. However, according to National Geographic, “If temperature extremes are worse than forecast or happen faster than forecast it can result in local or widespread overloads that may cause service to some neighborhoods to go offline automatically or switch to rotating blackouts.”

As the temperatures continue to fall and threats of more power outages increase many families are concerned about staying warm.

“Without power, you can’t have heat. Luckily, we have a gas stove so that can help us, but there are others who don’t have that,” said Blacksburg power outage victim Kyra Parker.

But it isn’t just heat that can be a problem, refrigerators will stop running causing food spoilage. Parker says her family makes sure to keep non-perishable foods in their pantry.

The time it takes to get back online varies based on circumstances with outages lasting anywhere from hours to weeks.

“Your region, neighborhood, circuit, powerlines, underground lines, even workers…they all have a role in determining how long it will take to restore power,” said Holland.

It’s scary not knowing, no one likes being in the dark Parker admits. Power companies have started adding ‘check outage status’ tabs to their websites allowing families to get an estimate on repair time.

“Appalachian Power keeps us updated,” said Parker. “Our recent outage only took 2 hours to restore power.”

According to Edison International, extreme weather isn’t the only cause of power loss. Vehicles, trees, animals, earthquakes and even people can be responsible. No matter the situation it’s always important to have a plan.

Holland believes taking the extra precautions now can protect your family when it matters.


Feeling the heat

 Blacksburg, Va., Oct 15- Hot Topic: With oceans warming and glaciers melting, global warming is causing temperatures to rise, keeping the heat in Blacksburg with unusual temperatures. Photo: Samantha Hamilton
Blacksburg, Va., Oct 15- Hot Topic: With oceans warming and glaciers melting, global warming is causing temperatures to rise, keeping the heat in Blacksburg with unusual temperatures. Photo: Samantha Hamilton

by Samantha Hamilton–

Evidence of climate change is causing many people to question how much longer life will be sustainable on Earth. According to NASA research, “human activity is the leading cause of climate change rather than Earth’s natural processes.”

Celebrities and politicians are using their platforms to inform audiences about extreme weather events occurring around the world. Encouraging all to adopt a greener lifestyle and decrease the emission of greenhouse gases that pollute our atmosphere. Dr. Lisa Kennedy of the Virginia Tech Department of Geography explains that allowing these gases to occupy our atmosphere is the strongest supporting evidence that humans are responsible for impacting Earth’s climate.

Virginia Tech students organized a campus protest to bring climate change awareness to a local level within the Blacksburg community. Student protester Reiss Gidner says the goal was to get more attention for the need of congressional legislation.

“Not only was it students at Virginia Tech but it was also Blacksburg Highschool students coming together to demand change,” said Reiss Gidner. “We came together with actual demands that resulted in meetings with the board of directors and President Sands to look at what we can change to use renewable energy.”

With all the conversations surrounding climate change, there have been individuals neglecting that the issue is even real.

“People want to criticize anything that isn’t perfect. This scientist says this is going to happen and temperature will rise this much and then this scientist said something else,” Kennedy explains. “They just want to dismiss it all because scientists don’t absolutely agree because every model doesn’t agree, but it’s important to note what the models do agree on…that it’s warming.”

Kennedy thinks individuals overlook the significance of their own efforts to protect the environment since they are only a small part within it. “I really believe that every person counts, and I think sometimes it’s easy to back out of doing anything because we think what good is it? I’m just one person,” said Kennedy.

Gidner believes it’s time to apply pressure on huge corporations that pump pollution into our air and oceans. She says, “until we have economic policies that can influence the environment and get corporations to actively participate in cleaning up the environment, then not using a plastic straw isn’t going to change anything.”

Organizations like 4Ocean created campaigns to raise money to rid our oceans of waste. According to their website, “6,824,167 pounds of trash removed from the oceans by paid 4Ocean employees since 2017 through the sale of our products.”

Global Warming is threatening little time remaining for change. Gidner admits, “I think we have time if we start yesterday. We need to be aware of our carbon footprint early and consistently aware of how all our actions affect the environment.”

Dr. Kennedy and Gidner remain hopeful that through education we can teach our youth to live greener lifestyles and encourage everyone else to do the same. Kennedy says, “We only have one shot, this next generation can help save us.”

Image linked to full version of infographic on

#MeToo takes spotlight at Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Va., Sep. 27- Showtime: The School of Performing Arts is ready to present “How I Learned to Drive” in the Squires Studio Theatre. Photo: Samantha Hamilton

by Samantha Hamilton-

The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts will be kicking off the new season with the opening of “How I Learned to Drive”.

Written by Paula Vogel, the play tells the story of a young woman who reflects on the trauma of her childhood abuse and her journey to womanhood. According to RAINN statistics, every nine minutes a child is sexually assaulted.

 Director Susanna Rinehart says “Paula Vogel is asking us to sit with the complexity of what these kinds of relationships and situations that are lives find us in are both to live through, experience, and recover from the lasting impacts. That speaks to me…but even more I know it speaks to far too many people.” Rinehart said she’s always been faithful to using theatre at its best, where it helps bring people together.

Opening night will conclude the long journey of pre-production the show has been under since last fall. Rinehart said she’s both relieved and excited to see her work with the cast and crew come alive on the stage but warns viewers that it won’t be an easy one to watch.

Rinehart explains, “Not just the actors or me but the stage management team have had moments of all bursting into tears at the same moment and not necessarily the moments we would’ve predicted.”

81 percent of women will experience some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following their assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Rinehart hopes viewers will understand that healing from trauma is an ongoing fight for the victim.

“This play is so stunning in how it theatricalizes the psychological truth of what it is to be a victim because the very nature of the play is fragmented memory, an adult woman who is trying to put together the pieces of these events is determined to find some level of liberation, healing or freedom from that history,” says Rinehart.

She hopes the show will spark a conversation that carries beyond the bounds of the stage.

School of Performing Arts professor, and director of the show Susanna Rinehart
Student lead in the show Li’l Bit, Morgan Blackwell