When Bill Imandt has a power failure at his North Arlington home, he doesn't bother to reset the electric clocks anymore.
"I just figure," he says, "in another 12 hours, there will be another failure, and when the power comes back on, the clocks may be at the right time."
Imandt's strategy isn't so absurb.
Between July 19 and Tuesday, Imandt and about 900 residents in Arlington's Country Club Hills area have been hit with six power failures -- lasting a total of 21 hours, according to a log kept by one of the resident's, retired Admiral F. H. Schneider of 4653 38th Place.
"Except for two bad hurricanes in Hingham, Mass.," Schneider said, "I've never experienced anything like this."
Virginia Electric and Power Co., whose lines serve the North Arlington area tends to agree with Schneider's assessment. "It's one of the hardest-hit areas in Northern Virgina" Vepco district manager Hilton B. Peel said. "But trees are like people. When they get old, they get brittle."
He said Vepco has launched a tree-trimming program that should be finished by Mid-November. But often, he added, tree owners won't give the utility permission to cut enough limbs to create what Vepco would like: a 10-to 12-foot clearance between the trees and the power lines.
Imandt and Schneider, though, scoff at the explanation. "The next block has tall trees," Imandt said, and they never have a problem. I think it's a tall story they're (Vepco) giving out."
He thinks Vepco's problem is outmoded equipment. That's Schneider's theory to. The former admiral said every time his power goes out, Vepco maintenance people have to manually turn back a circuit breaker in the neighborhood. Elsewhere, he said, Vepco has automatic circuit breakers that can be turned back on remotely.
Vepco's Peel said that even if the neighborhood's circuit breakers were automatic, that would not prevent an outage when a tree limb hit a power line. Theories like Imandt's and Schneider's, he said diplomatically, "show a lack of knowledge."
Peel said limbs have been falling onto power lines there so often because of the spate of thunderstorms that have hit the area.
"We've had so many complaints during the storms," he said, "they're blaming me for the storms . . . We had 15 storms between June 3 and Aug. 5 -- one every fourth day."
Peel said the total number of customer hours interrupted this year -- 800,000 -- is running 50 percent ahead of the same time last year. The revenue loss in kilowatt hours, he said, is about $50,000, plus money paid to lineman for overtime work.
"I pray for an end to the storms every night," Peel said. "It's just unreal."