Electric cooperatives rallied and ready for ice storm

February 12, 2014

EASLEY – Winter Storm Pax took its time moving into the Upstate after dropping nearly a half foot of snow in the Midlands area of the state.

By Wednesday morning, the snow totals across the state were adding up and utility companies were warning residents to be prepared for the worst possible scenario.

The state’s electric cooperatives were prepared for the potential of widespread power outages.

“This is the kind of scenario you never want to see,” said Todd Carter, vice president of loss control and training at The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. “Ice storms of this magnitude can cause extensive damage to our system. Unfortunately, it looks like a large number of homes are probably going to lose power in the coming days.”

In advance of the storm, 22 line workers from Kentucky arrived in South Carolina on Wednesday to assist with power restoration efforts. Storm coordinators, as part of a mutual aid agreement among co-ops, participated in a conference call Wednesday morning to determine whether additional reinforcements are needed.

“If this storm produces an inch of ice, we’re going to need as much help as we can get,” said Carter said Wednesday. “Right now, we have almost 300 linemen on stand-by to help. We’ll draw crews from Mississippi, Florida, as well as more linemen from Kentucky. We’ll decide Wednesday morning whether we have to call them in.”

Wednesday’s weather forecast for the Midlands predicted more than 12 straight hours of freezing rain combined with strong gusty winds. Carter said the public needs to be prepared to be without power for an extended period.

“We’re hoping the forecast is wrong,” said Carter. “But folks should be ready. There’s potential for widespread damage. If the predictions hold up, we’ll be facing a monumental job in the upcoming days.”

Duke Energy started moving crews Tuesday in anticipation of the winter storm expected to cover its Carolinas service territory with snow, sleet and ice.

A total of 150 workers were en route from the company’s Midwest operations to Greensboro, N.C., and another 250 were coming up from Florida to be staged in Florence.

They will bolster the company’s regular complement of line technicians, service crews and other personnel who all stand ready to respond to outages as they occur.

“Today’s flurries appear to be just an ominous appetizer for the main blast of winter weather scheduled to arrive tomorrow and into Thursday,” said Jeff Corbett, senior vice president of Duke Energy’s Carolinas Delivery Operations. “The severity and impact of the storm depends on several factors, including temperature and wind. But the clouds are gathering and we are prepared for whatever comes our way.”

Restoring power

Restoring power after an ice storm can be challenging as travel conditions are poor. Before power can be restored, crews first assess damage and determine what crews, equipment and supplies will be needed to make repairs. Because of this, customers could see damage assessors patrolling their neighborhoods before crews arrive to begin work.

Crews prioritize work to ensure the largest number of customers is restored as quickly as possible. Essential services such as hospitals and emergency responders have priority.

“Our crews will work as quickly and safely as possible to complete restorations,” said Corbett. “Depending on the number of outages and the amount of damage sustained, we know from past storms some customers may experience multi-day outages.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared and having a plan in place now in the event your power goes off,” he added. “We appreciate our customers and their advanced preparedness and patience as we brace for this unprecedented event.”

If you lose power, turn off as many appliances and electronics as possible. This will help with restoration efforts as it will reduce the immediate demand on the power lines when power is restored.

Once your power is restored, wait a few minutes before turning your equipment back on.