Utility Companies Prepare For Winter Weather

Tuesday, December 2nd 2008, 12:24 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- It's been a year since the devastating ice storm last December.  That's when 640,000 homes and businesses statewide were without power.  So, what did electric companies learn from the worst ice storm on Oklahoma history?

Last December's ice storm is a bad memory for hundreds of thousands of people across Oklahoma.  They suffered with no heat, no lights and no fun as the days went on and on.

"That was an amazing event.  I'm going to take them at their word that that was a 100 year ice storm," said PSO's Steve Penrose.

Since the ice storm, PSO evaluated their response to find out what worked and what didn't.

"What we've learned, of course, is that trees falling into the lines was the major cause of the outages and so we've really focused, Craig, on hardening our system," said PSO's Steve Penrose.

That means continuing on a five year tree trimming plan.  They're also targeting about 20 neighborhoods mostly in Tulsa for burying transmission lines.

"It's a slow process.  It's a very expensive process, but it really does provide the long term solution to trees and ice and that sort of thing," said PSO's Steve Penrose.

Rural electric coops are also re-evaluating their response.  Verdigris Valley found that communicating to customers was one of their biggest challenges.

"We had a good idea of what we needed to do, but the steps we needed to take to do it, we learned a lot about that," said VVEC Operations Manager Randy Riddle.

The coop has a new website that can be updated hourly during an emergency.  A new phone system went from eight lines to 23 with the ability to route some calls to an information line.

"We're able to transfer out to a call center for overflow calls.  We didn't have that availability last year," said VVEC Operations Manager Randy Riddle.

Both utilities say what they learned from last December will help them in the future for an ice storm they hope never comes.  Verdigris Valley also doubled its tree trimming budget.      

Both electric companies say another thing they learned from the December ice storm is how to better manage the large number of people that came in from out of state to help restore service.