As unpredictable as the winning lottery numbers, recent weather conditions have seemed to take a turn for the worse this past week. Unlike down south here in Louisiana where we are rocking short sleeves and flip flops in 70 degree weather, people up north are getting their shovels, snow boots and flashlights ready as the hype about winter storms warnings increases.
Certain states like Minnesota, Indianapolis and Colorado are under warning for a massive wintery mix of snow, sleet and ice. According to MPRNews in Minnesota, north of Two Harbors is buried under 26 inches of snow, with some areas reaching snowfall up to 3 feet. Also the Denver, Co area is experiencing heavy winds and snow, with expected snowfall up to 3 feet, which has also put an Avalanche Watch through many of the northern and central mountains throughout Colorado.
And what’s also pretty surprising, is that just last week North Texas was experiencing springlike weather, and this week they are bracing for a winter storm as temperatures drop in some areas as low as 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just as important as pre-treating bridges and overpasses with deicing materials, preparing for power outages is a must. Utilities throughout the country have been steadily following the weather and are gearing up for storm response. With piercing winds, heavy ice and snowfall, there’s always the possibility of power lines snapping, wood distribution poles falling or branches and trees falling on power lines.
Below are a few tips for utilities on how to prepare for a winter storm:
One of the struggles utilities face during storm preparation and response is securing the correct amount of materials needed without overbuying while in panic mode. 1.) By establishing relationships with key vendors who can help the situation, assures they will have plenty of material in inventory to serve them in an emergency situation, allowing the Utility to procure only items required as they determine their needs.
As with most things, storm response has improved through experience. For example, past storms can be very useful in improving a utility’s logistics. In the case of crossarms, truckloads are often divided among different service locations. It is important to have a good idea of the usage at each location to properly divide truckloads. With properly divided trucks, all crews can be kept supplied with the proper amount of crossarms, rather than having a portion of the repair crews supplied with more than they need, while other crews wait on a truck that may not arrive until the next day.
Utilities face even more pressure from their customers and politicians to get electrical service back on line in the quickest amount of time. 2.) Utilities can prepare for a storm by having a Critical Needs List including items such as poles, crossarms, hardware, insulators, conductor, squeeze-ons, splices and transformers, helps to ensure a smooth and timely recovery.
3.) It’s a good idea for utilities to also implement a trigger mechanism based on the path and strength of the storm so they’ll know when to act, which can eliminate potential costly delays for recovery. 4.) Utilities can also be better prepared by standardizing their products as much as possible, and by approving alternate ahead of time so that they don’t lose valuable time once they are engaged.
5.) Ensuring safety is the number one priority. It’s important that all personnel remain out of harm’s way during the worst moments, and that all safety procedures are followed during the reconstruction process.
6.) Next, utilities need to ensure that strong lines of communication are established between local emergency services and authorities, utility users and their vendors. One critical tactic that utilities should implement is to have a storm response team with members designated to handle each of the key responsibilities. The qualified person should have experience, product knowledge and have established relationships with key contacts or component vendors long before the potential event.
Whether utilities are preparing for a snow storm, sleet, strong winds or winter ice storms, having a plan beforehand can make all the difference in getting power back up and running, while ensuring the safety of lineman, and also citizens who could be exposed to down power lines.