Electric crews in the Ozarks prepare for wind damage

Utilities have manpower & equipment to respond
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 6:38 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s not just the KY3 First Alert Weather Team keeping an eye on a windy Valentine’s Day and evening across the Ozarks. So are electric utilities across the Ozarks.

Patrick Oehlschlager, the general manager & CEO of Ozark Electric Cooperative, said the cooperative wasn’t the only one that got word of the windy day.

“As we get those alerts, the word spreads through the utility sector in general,” Oehlschlager says. “All my colleagues go into a level of making sure that our compliment for employees is good, trucks are ready to run, and materials are all laid out.”

With the crews at Ozark Electric Cooperative, Oehlschlager says that the crew doesn’t have an “all-halt” event regarding weather and operations.

“They sign on to go into harm’s way, just as first responders would,” Oehlschlager said. “If they assess the situation and it’s dangerous to execute what they need to do, then they’ll stand down until those conditions improve.”

That comes down to years of training that the linemen have and the personal protective equipment to keep them safe. “They’re heavily insulated with rubber gloves, rubber sleeves, leather gloves, all those kinds of grounding chains and things that they need for added protection,” Oehlschlager says. “They take those precautions all the time.”

When it comes to the power lines and the system being able to withstand the gusty winds through tonight, Oehlschlager says that was primarily taken care of when they designed their system.

”We design to have a heavy loading of ice and 40 mph wind against potentially half an inch of ice,” Oehlschlager said. “We’re just facing wind. So, we have a comfort level to exceed or approach 80 miles an hour or above. The big concern is just 40 to 50 mph wind taking things where they’ll end up in power lines and disrupt power.”

While Ozarks Electric didn’t have very many outages to report, crews are ready to go, and Oehlschlager still encourages people to call or report an outage to their utility provider.

“We can detect when we have outages,” Oehlschlager says. “A lot of times, our system has notified us that power’s out, possibly even before someone picks up the phone and calls. I still encourage them to call, verify and make sure that they have their outage reported. If they’ve witnessed actual damage and can help us pinpoint where we need to focus our efforts.”

Even though the wind gusts won’t slow the outage response time, utilities encourage patience for people who may lose power. Still, crews are ready to respond as long as the risk of wind gusts continues into the night.

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