Ice Storm Restoration Update From Kentucky Electric

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ/KY ELECTRIC) – With yet another winter storm forecast to dump freezing rain, sleet and snow, especially on southeastern Kentucky, crews are continuing to work in frigid conditions Wednesday. After outages rose overnight to about 60,000 consumer-members, the statewide total for electric cooperative outages now stands at 45,840.  At its height Tuesday morning, total outages for Kentucky co-ops surpassed 100,000.

Electric cooperatives report multiple broken poles. Big Sandy RECC alone reports an estimated 200 broken poles that need to be replaced before electrical equipment and wires can be installed.

“As we feared, the scope and scale of the damage suggests a prolonged outage. If you are currently without power, it is advisable to prepare for days without service, with the likelihood that it will take more than a week to restore power to all members,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association which supports the locally owned and operated cooperatives. “As member-owned utilities, our cooperatives greatly appreciate the understanding of co-op consumer-members. Know we are working as quickly as we safely can.”

In addition to each co-op’s own crews and contractors, mutual aid crews from Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and Indiana are also assisting with power restoration. By Thursday morning, the number of mutual aid crewmembers is slated to swell to 311 line technicians. Coupled with contract crews also responding, total extra personnel on hand is more than 775. Jackson Energy, one of the hardest hit cooperatives, has more than 200 personnel in the field on power restoration efforts.

The recovery effort is boosted by an ample supply of electrical supplies from Kentucky-based United Utility Supply Cooperative. Ahead of last week’s ice storm, UUS moved material from its other warehouses to Kentucky and placed key vendors on alert to be ready to bolster supplies. UUS serves electric cooperatives in 17 states with a complete line of materials critical to the electric utility industry, such as transformers, conductor (electric wires), poleline hardware, grounding equipment, utility poles, tools, and safety supplies.

Even as recovery efforts progress, trees and power lines could still succumb to the accumulated ice, more than one-inch in some areas. Co-ops urge their members to avoid downed lines.

“The added weight may cause lines to snap off the poles or cause the poles to break,” Perry explained. “That can bring power lines into contact with the ground, trees, homes, vehicles and other objects. If people or pets come in contact with a live power line, they can suffer serious injury or even death.”

In addition, co-ops report that the primary cause of power outages in some areas of the state has been drivers losing control on black ice and striking utility poles.

“For everyone’s safety, we urge you to avoid travel unless completely necessary, and especially take great care when driving near power restoration crews,” said Charlie Lewis, a safety instructor with Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “The top priority of electric cooperatives is safety. Co-op line technicians and mutual aid crews will work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.”

While indoors, those without power will turn their focus to staying warm. If homes are not using a generator, keep warm air in and cool air out by not opening doors to unused rooms. Do not open doors to the outdoors unless necessary.

Food safety is also important when there is a prolonged outage. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible, and eat perishable food first. Keep food items in coolers and packed with ice to keep them from going bad if an outage lasts longer than a day. Once the refrigerator reaches temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, foods can become unsafe to eat.

To protect homes’ electrical equipment during an outage, turn off and unplug all unnecessary electronics or appliances. This will keep equipment from being damaged by surges or spikes when the power returns.

Once an outage is over, there are still safety precautions to take. Electrical power lines could still be down. If you see downed power lines, do not touch them. Call your local co-op or 911.

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