Power Progress: Crews Make Headway Restoring Electricity

Sunday, December 16th 2007, 9:04 am
By: News On 6

Crews working to restore power are making significant progress this weekend in the Tulsa area. Ed Bettinger, a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma, said about 48,000 PSO customers remained without power in the Tulsa metropolitan area Sunday morning. About 50,000 PSO customers regained power on Friday.

``It's pretty much as we expected,'' PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford said. ``The first several days, crews were working on emergency restoration and getting the backbone of the structure up, the main feeders and transmission lines. Now they're really getting into the neighborhoods. The customers are coming on in bigger chunks.''

Click here to see a time estimate of when PSO expects to have power restored in the Tulsa metropolitan area.

PSO’s Ed Bettinger says the goal Sunday is to focus on the Northeast quadrant of the metro area; restoring power to 95 percent of customers in that area. On Saturday, PSO restored power to 95 percent of customers in the Southeast quadrant of the metro area, including Broken Arrow.

About 93,325 Oklahoma Gas and Electric customers remained without power, mostly in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. About 5,400 OG&E customers in the Tulsa metro area were still without electricity on Sunday morning.

At last report, Verdigris Valley Electric had more than 4,100 customers without power; Northeast Electric had almost 3,800 customers without electricity; Indian Electric had about 600 customers without power; and East Central Electric had service restored to all but about 200 customers.

Officials had feared a heavier snowfall would hamper efforts to restore power.

``We feel fortunate that we dodged, at least in part, the snow,'' OG&E spokesman Gil Broyles said Saturday morning. ``We were afraid the snow was going to be a huge issue, but it appears it will only be a minor one now.''

Broyles said OG&E officials expected to have 80 percent of OG&E's customer base back online by the end of the weekend. More than 300,000 OG&E customers were without power at the height of the storm.

Utility company web sites:

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas & Electric

Northeast Electric Cooperative

East Central Electric Cooperative

Verdigris Valley Electric

Indian Electric

Meanwhile, Governor Brad Henry signed a formal major disaster declaration request to President Bush on Saturday for seven Oklahoma counties left devastated in the wake of massive ice storms.

The request is a step required before President Bush could issue such a declaration. Governor Henry said that more counties could be added to his request as additional damage assessments are completed.

``The ice storm that swept through Oklahoma last weekend has been nothing short of catastrophic,'' Henry said. ``The storm impacted hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans, many of whom are still discovering the full extent of the devastation. The storm was of historic proportion, and federal assistance deserves to be granted expeditiously and decisively.''

President George W. Bush has made eight presidential disaster declarations for Oklahoma during 2007, six of which were major disasters. Two others were of the emergency variety, including one issued Monday in the wake of the ice storm that left hundreds of thousands without power.

Governor Henry's request is for public assistance, which helps local governments with expenses associated with disasters.

The counties listed in the request include three of the state's most populous: Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Cleveland counties, along with Lincoln, Mayes, Pottawatomie and Wagoner counties. In those seven counties, preliminary estimates for debris removal and utility damage alone exceed $30.4 million, according to the governor's office.

Oklahomans with storm-related damage should call the state’s Damage Assessment Hotline at 1-866-560-7584.

A snowstorm that was expected to blanket Oklahoma in up to four inches of snow veered northward into Kansas, leaving accumulations of two inches or less in most parts of the state.

National Weather Service forecaster Daryl Williams said dry atmospheric conditions over southwestern and central Oklahoma prevented any major snowfall. Preliminary reports from Enid, in the northwestern part of the state, were that up to three-and-a-half inches of snow fell there, ``but the farther south you go, less and less fell,'' he said.

Click here to read the latest forecast from News On 6 Meteorologist Dick Faurot or click here to watch the forecast.

School systems in the state's two largest towns also announced that classes will resume on Monday after being shut down last week, mainly because of power outages.

As of Friday, more than half of the Tulsa Public Schools' buildings were running on either full or partial power, according to a statement on the TPS Web site. The statement said Superintendent Michael Zolkoski will meet Sunday with other school officials to determine if conditions warrant the closure of some schools.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent John Q. Porter said all but nine of the system's schools will be open Monday.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths attributed to the storm remained at 23 on Saturday. Thirteen of the deaths occurred in traffic accidents that happened when the storm first hit. Eight more died in fires and two died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Authorities have not said whether a fatal fire in Tulsa on Friday morning was related to the storm. Investigators reported finding a charcoal grill inside and no electricity, police said.

Click here for complete coverage of the December 2007 Winter Storm, including helpful phone numbers and links as well as text and video stories.