Another storm, another power outage.

What used to be a relatively unusual event is now all too common in South Jersey, particularly on the barrier islands.

Just ask the approximately 35,000 Atlantic City Electric Company customers who lost power in last week's northeaster, including 19,000 customers in Longport, Margate, Ventnor and the southern end of Atlantic City, some of whom were without power for almost 12 hours.

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Or ask the 3 million New Jersey residents who lost power in Hurricane Sandy, including 130,000 Atlantic City Electric customers. Some were without power for almost two weeks.

Or the more than 200,000 Atlantic City Electric customers who lost power, some for as long as a week, in last summer's derecho.

These outages are apparently the new normal - but they are getting old.

Yes, recent storms have been unusually fierce. That could be a short-term trend - but most climatologists believe this is a long-term change in weather patterns related to global warming. And frankly, even lesser storms seem to cause an unusual number of outages these days.

Yes, all the state's utilities are in the - expensive - process of upgrading their infrastructure to prevent outages. Atlantic City Electric plans to upgrade substations and transmission lines in the next year or two in Port Norris, Galloway Township, Margate, Ventnor and Sea Isle City.

But right now, you can drive the Margate Bridge Road and see electrical poles leaning at frighteningly sharp angles from storm winds out of the northeast. Would they hold up if there were another storm today?

Last week, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee grilled a representative of the state Board of Public Utilities - and rightly so. The BPU makes the rules the utilities must comply with.

The agency has recently enacted 103 new measures to address outages, the BPU's Kristie Izzo told the committee. But most of those changes involve communication issues - such as requiring utilities to maintain websites for each municipality that will be updated during outages to show the number of people without power, the causes, and the estimated time of restoration.

Such communication is important - and Atlantic City Electric already does a pretty good job communicating such information via the Web and mobile devices. But as several committee members noted, all of this is of limited value when the power is out and your computer is down and your smart phone can't be charged.

We remain less than convinced that the BPU and the state's electrical-power utilities are doing enough in the first place to prevent outages from occurring in this new era of extreme weather.

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