Ice Index Created To Help Predict Damage

Thursday, December 11th 2008, 5:30 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- One year ago, Tulsa was dealing with the power outages caused by the ice storm.

At the time weather forecasters and utility companies were already working on a way to predict the damage.

When ice is in the forecast everyone wants to know how it will impact their electricity. Now there's a way to forecast not just the ice, but the amount of damage as well.

Steve Piltz is the Meteorologist in charge of the Tulsa National Weather Service office. He helped develop the Sperry-Piltz Utility Ice Damage Index.

"When you take a lot of complex data and put it into one number, there's an immediate assessment you can get in your mind of what that potential is," said Piltz.

The ice damage index is on a 1-5 scale. 1 and 2 describe some to scattered outages that only last a few hours. 3 and 4 are defined by outages that last up to or beyond 3 days. 5 is the worst, with catastrophic damage and outages that last several weeks.

Piltz helped develop the index so decision makers could better understand the complexities of an ice storm forecast.

"They want to have a handle on how much damage is going to happen to their utility infrastructure, so for example they know how many poles to order, if they know it's going to be bad and maybe there have been other storms in the country, there might be a shortage of poles, so if they can put their order in say three days in advance, that's just that much faster the power can be turned back on and that's a big advantage for their customers," said Piltz.

The index takes into account the forecast for ice and wind, the two primary factors that damage power lines.

It can also describe past events to help planners compare what's already happened, with what's in the forecast.

And so far, there isn't a number forecast for the ice expected next week, that will come Friday or Saturday.