Article by Katie Morris
The Farmer’s Almanac is calling for colder than normal temperatures for southern states during the 2017-2018 winter season. Cold temperatures do not cause outages. However, the Farmer’s Almanac also forecasts that precipitation will be at above-normal levels throughout the country. This is where we begin to start thinking about potential outages.
Freezing rain is the most concerning type of winter precipitation for us at Lamar Electric. Freezing rain is snow that has melted on its way down to the ground and refreezes once it hits the ground, a tree limb or electric wire, causing an unwelcomed layer of ice. Once ice accumulates on our lines it can increase the weight of the line by 30 times, according to The Weather Channel. A half inch accumulation on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight. Subsequently, the added weight can cause tree branches, power lines and utility poles to fall. Remember that the added weight doesn’t go away once the above-mentioned items fall to the ground. Our linemen must remove the broken wires, poles, trees that have fallen on the lines, etc., and replace the broken equipment, which takes a significant about of time and man power. Making repairs in freezing rain doesn’t speed things up either! We have contractors that we call if we have widespread outages. In severe cases we even call in other cooperatives to help us restore power quickly.
Needless to say, the weight of the ice causes the wires to sag. Sagging wires in a span can be snagged by a truck driving underneath, pulling down the poles at the ends of the span. This can cause a domino effect in which one pole snaps and forcefully pulls on the wires, causing the next pole in line to snap, which can initiate a long line of poles being snapped. As the ice begins to melt and fall off the sagging wires, they can spring back up and may be damaged as they hit overhanging branches or other wires. This occurrence is called sleet jumping.
Speaking of sleet, you may be keeping an eye on the news and looking out for any menacing winter storm words. Please note that freezing rain and sleet are two different things. Sleet is a snowflake that has melted partially and refrozen before it hits the ground. Freezing rain is a snowflake that has melted completely and freezes after hitting the ground or another object. While accumulations of sleet can make roads treacherous, sleet does not accumulate on powerlines, so ice events with more sleet than freezing rain pose a greatly reduced threat for power outages.
Stay prepared this coming winter season. Winter storms could strike at any time. The following items are a few key items that you may need should a winter storm hit and you find yourself without power:
- Battery Powered Radio with extra batteries so you can hear the latest local weather updates
- A couple of oil lamps with extra odorless oil for light
- Portable cellphone charger to communicate with friends and family and to use in case of emergencies
- Dry firewood for your fireplace or wood burning stove, should you have one
- Smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector that operate on a battery
- Battery powered flash lights
- Blankets and sleeping bags
- Drinking Water
- Canned/no-cook food (ex: bread, crackers, nuts)
- Manual can opener
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
These are just a few suggested items. To find a full list of suggested winter preparedness items, please visit the website for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/disasters/ and visit the Winter Weather tab.
We are constantly on the lookout for major storms that may affect our service area. We do our best to remain prepared for any storm that could head our way. We encourage you to also stay prepared and be patient with us should your lights go out during a storm. Our linemen work hard in harsh weather conditions to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. Winter is coming and we will be prepared; will you be prepared?