Electric Companies: Ready to Respond

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Several inches of ice are possible across Region 8 and utility crews Monday prepared trucks and trees for the event. Officials with Jonesboro City, Water & Light and the Craighead Electric Cooperatives said they are ready for widespread power outages.

"That's what we want to communicate to everybody is that, hey, we're getting ready, we're prepared, I hope it doesn't show up but we're here if it does," said Monty Williams with the Craighead Electric Coop.

Employees of utility companies in Region 8 were working all day Monday to get trucks ready to respond to power outages caused by freezing rain.

"We're already prepared. Most of the time, we're ready 24/7. Some of the things in a big major ice storm is that you may have to have some more poles, more supplies, you know, wire, and stuff like that," said Williams.

David Smith, General Manager of Clay County Electric, said older power lines could sustain ice as thick as .25 inches. Newer lines could handle .50 inches. Clay County Electric serves 13,000 customers in Clay, Randolph and Greene counties, as well as southern Missouri. Officials said utility crews will be dispatched to other locations if the ice storm isn't as bad as projected.

Craighead Electric Coop. provides power to 27,000 homes in 8 counties. To see their current power outages, click here. Jonesboro City, Water & Light serves more than 30,000 homes.

"There are 17 electric cooperatives here in the state and all of us are one big family and we help each other out any time," said Williams.

Jake Rice with CWL said customers who lose power should contact them immediately. Repairs could take anywhere between 3 hours to 3 weeks, depending on the severity of the storm.

"I know back in the 2002 ice storm it took us about 72 hours to get the customers back on," said Rice.

"They need to check and make sure, you know, look at their neighbors. If they're in the dark, then it's the whole neighborhood is out or a line is down somewhere," said Williams.

Officials with CWL and Craighead Electric Coop. said there is little they can do to prepare for an ice storm. Rice said CWL is wrapping chains around truck tires and trimming tree limbs.

"We are stocking our vehicles with the parts and materials that will be needed to respond to an event," said Rice.

"With the ice storm, the lines getting, with the collecting of the moisture on there and getting large with the ice then the polls just breaking, you know that takes several hours to replace a poll and if you got several hundred of them out there then that may take several days to get that back on," said Williams.

"It will certainly add weight to the power lines and the trees around the power lines, so if we get that, we will have some opportunities that we will need to go out and have a restoration effort," said rice.

According to the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, engineers said power lines can hand .50 inch layer of ice at winds of 40 miles an hour. If the storm is that severe, then the company can expect widespread damage and outages.

"Back in the 2002 ice storm we have somewhere between a half an inch to 3/4 of an inch, and we did have some opportunities with some lines down," said Rice.

Williams said if you see an electric wire down, do not go near it.

"If anybody sees a power line out on the ground, stay away from it, even though you may think that it's off, always treat it as it's live because you never know if it's on or off," said Williams.