BY LEANN DILBECK –
With the well predicted winter storm hammering down on the area, local officials want the public to know that they are well prepared.
Polk County Sheriff Mike Godfrey and his officers were busy preparing their fleet for the winter conditions Thursday afternoon and were ready to respond to those in need should conditions deteriorate. “This storm has been well predicted and we just hope people will listen and stay close to home to avoid unnecessary accidents,” cautioned Godfrey.
Currently, the only road closure that The Pulse has been notified of is a section of Pine Street known to locals as “hospital hill.” Additional road closures will be posted as soon as we are notified.
For Arkansas highway conditions, click this link: http://www.arkansashighways.com/Road/mapopt.htm
Leon Philpot, Manager of the local Rich Mountain Electric Cooperatives, said they have crews of linemen and timber cutters on stand-by. “We’re as well prepared as you can be in an ice storm,” said Philpot. He said they have their local crews but contractors equipped and ready to respond if the predicted storm brings the anticipated ice that could cause power outages.
He, like many others, is hopeful that this will not be as extensive as the Christmas 2000 ice storm. “Our right-of-ways are in the best shape they’ve been in since I’ve been here,” said Philpot.
He said it was difficult to predict the length of outages but said he is hopeful that the longest the local area could be looking at is 3 to 4 days but said that, too, is difficult to predict when you don’t know the amount of ice that may accumulate. “There are so many unknown variables, not knowing how much ice, or if we get wind and then the lines begin galloping, that could cause poles to break… We’ll know better when we know exactly what we’re dealing with but we do have additional crews already on stand-by for rapid response.”
The Cooperatives’ 8,500 members are encouraged to call to report outages immediately to 479-394-4140 that will be answered 24/7. Philpot encouraged members to report ALL outages because it is possible that your home or business could be the only one. He also encouraged members to report downed lines immediately. “Stay away from downed lines. You never know if it could be energized. If it’s in your road or in your roadway, call us and we’ll come move it.”
AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) is preparing for winter storms across its service territory, with highest impact in Arkansas, where heavy accumulations of ice and snow are expected. SWEPCO has assembled over 350 total resources from Oklahoma, Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas to assist with storm recovery efforts.
SWEPCO’s power outage report number is 1-888-218-3919, available 24 hours a day. Customers also can report outages online and on mobile devices at SWEPCO.com. Customers can look for outage updates on SWEPCO.com and Facebook.com/SWEPCO.
SWEPCO has an emergency preparedness team at the Shreveport, La.-based Distribution Dispatch Center that continuously monitors winter storm conditions in the company’s Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas service areas. SWEPCO work crews are on standby alert for power restoration efforts.
“Winter storms can do extensive damage to our electrical system,” says Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO’s VP – distribution region operations in Shreveport. “The combination of ice build-up, snow, high winds and heavy rains can often lead to uprooted trees or broken limbs on power lines.”
SWEPCO anticipates the increased workload and mobilizes crews to potential affected areas. “The distribution and transmission dispatch area tracks all restoration efforts in order to provide updated information for the public with daily reports through the local news media,” says David Milford, manager of transmission dispatch operations.
“The company’s Customer Solutions Center (CSC) is staffed around the clock to take power outage calls from concerned customers,” says Linda Cosby, CSC manager for SWEPCO.
Tree crews across the area are prepared to respond to adverse weather conditions. “Our contract tree crews are available for immediate access when needed in winter storms,” says Danny Salter, SWEPCO forestry manager. “SWEPCO has a comprehensive storm manual that addresses tree trimming issues, and the removal and trimming of many trees annually helps prevent some potential power outage situations.”
SWEPCO’s primary objective in its Emergency Restoration Plan is to restore electric service to all customers as safely and quickly as possible, and provide timely and accurate updated information to customers affected by service interruptions. “An orderly, well-coordinated approach to service restoration is needed since ice storms and other extreme weather conditions can cause widespread damage,” says Anthony Zeno, SWEPCO emergency restoration director.
In major power outages, SWEPCO’s first priorities are damage assessment and restoration of power to critical customers, such as hospitals, emergency services, major communications facilities and customers on life support equipment. “Our crews must repair major electric lines which serve hundreds or thousands of customers before they can repair scattered outages,” says Smoak. “We begin working as soon as possible in an efficient manner to identify and repair these problems in the field.”
SWEPCO’s primary concern during storm restoration is safety for the public and its employees. If customers should see a hazardous condition such as a fallen power line or broken equipment, or if safety in general is in doubt, stay away, keep others back, and call SWEPCO’s customer service number at 1-888-216-3523, or the local police immediately to report the situation.
SWEPCO customers are encouraged to have blankets, flashlights, bottled water, portable radios and TVs, and a supply of fresh batteries on hand if the power should go off due to inclement winter weather. SWEPCO will call out crews to identify and repair the problem as quickly and safely as possible.
Historically, the severe ice storms of December 2000 impacted about 80 percent of SWEPCO’s service area, when 329,300 SWEPCO customers lost power at some point during the 23-day recovery process. Over 90 percent of affected customers had electricity restored in six days. The two storms were the worst in SWEPCO’s 101-year history, and total recovery cost was $35.4 million dollars. Over 4,900 SWEPCO and contract personnel were dedicated to storm recovery work. The second worst storms in the company’s history were from damage after Hurricanes Rita (2005) and Ike (2008), when some 187,000 customers lost power following their landfall.
SWEPCO serves 114,000 customers in western Arkansas, 228,000 in Louisiana and 182,000 customers in Texas.
Click on these links for other winter weather related stories: