Oklahoma Power Crews Stay Prepared For Possibilities

Thursday, February 27th 2014, 5:32 pm
By: Craig Day

With the possibility of ice in the forecast, area electric companies have plenty of people on standby in case there are power outages over the weekend.

They hope having plenty of resources to react to a storm and the proactive steps they take ahead of time will make a big difference.

At Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative in Collinsville, there are plenty of supplies and equipment on hand in case they are needed.

Transformers, electric poles, miles of electric lines, you name it. Plenty of manpower also will be available.

"We normally keep a couple of crews on call all the time, but when impending weather comes in, we make sure we keep them all on call," VVEC Operations Manager Randy Riddle said.

Electric lines are designed to typically handle a half-inch of ice buildup.

But Verdigris Valley Operations Manager Randy Riddle says wind and tree limbs close to lines are also big factors when it comes to power outages.

"If the wind is blowing right, it will bend down over and if it falls across a line, snap a line, then you have problems," Riddle said.

Electric Co-ops and power companies are more aggressive in tree and branch removal since the 2007 ice storm, when hundreds of thousands of customers lost power statewide.

It was the worst storm of its kind in two decades.

Contractors who remove trees work year round.

"We don't try to cut anything that we don't have to cut, but the trees that are in the right of way need to be removed, " VVEC's Lon Lambert said.

Utility companies typically require 10-foot easements on each side if there are two power lines, 15 feet if there are three.

Preventative measures like tree trimming and removal make a big difference during icy weather.

"If we can get them opened up and clear, when we have an ice storm we have way fewer interruptions and we're able to get the lights on much quicker," Lambert said.

Utility companies have mutual aid agreements in place with other companies and co-ops statewide and with surrounding states in case they're needed.

Many people are curious about burying lines to prevent outages. But that usually costs four times as much as it does to string lines on power poles.