Craighead Electric: "We're ready."

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Craighead Electric Cooperative told Region 8 News Wednesday it expects minor problems as a result from the first winter storm of 2010. According to Monty Williams, several inches of snow will cause no major problems on power lines and utility poles, many of which were replaced after last year's ice storm.

"We're ready just about every time. We're ready for a big or small outage or whatever. It's kind of hard to be ready for anything because you don't know what's coming," said Williams.

The snow storm, which the Region 8 Storm Team predicts to drop 2-4 inches in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri, will be the first test in the winter months of the new grid's capabilities.

"Snow doesn't collect on the power lines or anything like that, you know, but the ice does, so snow is good compared to ice," said Williams.

Williams told Region 8 News that Craighead Electric replaced more than 8,000 utility poles in the weeks after the ice storm. Since the storm, six crews have been working to restore the grid.

"We're still in ice construction mode right now because after the ice storm the poles went up so fast, we're now having to go back and re-sag the line and make sure that they're sagging right because if you don't get those sagged correctly, then the two phases will slap together and knock your power out," said Williams.

Williams said several poles were placed in ground that was saturated with water once the ice melted. Those poles are no longer standing at the desired 90 degree angle.

"We're going back and straightening up some of those because it was so wet and everything. In fact, I saw one back over here east of town that was leaning," said Williams.

According to Brian Duncan, President and CEO of Craighead Electric, the ice storm caused roughly $43 million dollars in damage. Four hundred utility workers from Arkansas and surrounding states arrived in Region 8 to restore power as quickly as possible last year.

"There is always maintenance going on, changing out poles, adding new services and stuff. When we're having to set new poles and modify things all the time, there's just constantly maintenance going on," said Williams.

Williams said the biggest threat to knock out power is falling tree branches and limbs.

"If it accumulates on trees, you know, it accumulates up there and pulls the trees down. That could be one thing there that could happen. Just knocked the trees down with the weight of the snow," said Williams. "The way they're talking is that this is supposed to be pretty windy so most of that is going to blow away. We're not really expecting a lot but we'll probably have a few. We always have a few outages even on a clear day, you know, we have things that happen."

Region 8 News spoke to Nick Manatt with Clay County Electric early Wednesday morning. He said he wasn't worried about the new power grid that was installed last year. He believes everything will hold up in a snow storm. He said his primary concern was that lines are sagged properly.

"The molecules are moving faster so it's going to sag and then in the winter time, the molecules are moving real slow so it'll shorten up," said Williams.

Williams sent a press release Wednesday morning telling people to prepare for the storm ahead of time.

"A contingency plan to where if the power does go off for a couple of hours, so don't panic or anything. We're hoping it's not going to be off for days like it was during the ice storm but we don't know what's coming. It possibly could happen, but we want them to have a plan. Some canned foods, some candles and extra fire wood to just be prepared," said Williams. "We're going to be watching it right now and our guys are on call 24/7 so we're ready for anything, for whatever comes and if it's going to be a major one, we'll call in our troops again and start after it."

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