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June 2012
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Utilities respond to outages caused by icy weather hit

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

Crews from local electric utilities worked through the night and into Wednesday to restore power after ice and snow blanketed the area and took down trees and power lines.

Strong winds, precipitation and an influx of ice into McCracken and surrounding counties Tuesday resulted in pockets of power outages throughout the region. Most residents regained power early Wednesday but officials at utilities expressed concern that wind could create additional issues.

Andrea Underwood, spokeswoman for Paducah Power System, said a circuit that malfunctioned after a tree fell and broke a utility pole Tuesday night near Alben Barkley Drive again stopped working about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. She said most of the 350 residents were only affected briefly but the power for about 40 customers remained off until 7 a.m. She said crews also responded to service calls and turned power off in the Lone Oak area about 10 minutes for tree trimming.

Izell White, vice president of human resources and member relations at Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation, said that overnight Tuesday the highest number of homes that experienced an outage was about 1,560. She said most of those involved problems with equipment at a substation on Husband Road.

A mobile substation was installed and power was restored within about one hour. JPEC reported several other individual scattered outages and one pole that broke because of ice, but power was restored to all customers by Wednesday morning, according to White.

"Our crews worked through the night and are ready to go and are prepared to respond quickly as additional needs arise," she said.

Ron Mays, vice president of finance and administration for West Kentucky Rural Electric in Mayfield, said the maximum number of outages Tuesday night was about 2,500 of its more than 38,000 customers. He said that number remained mostly under 1,000 and had dropped to 20 at 11 a.m. and into single digits by 1 p.m. Wednesday. The areas most affected were southern Graves County and Calloway County from residual ice of a previous storm.

Renee Beasley-Jones, communications manager for Kenergy Corporation, said as of 8 a.m. Wednesday more than 2,000 outages were reported, with 148 in Caldwell, 86 in Crittenden and 57 in Lyon counties. That number had decreased to about 15 in Caldwell, 30 in Crittenden and none in Lyon by mid-afternoon. She said the company had crews working throughout the night and through Wednesday to meet the target of restoring power to all customers by 10 p.m.

Tree limbs falling across power lines and downed utility poles weighed down by ice were the culprits in much of the trouble. Most of the issues were individual homes or businesses, rather than a cluster of outages in one area, which slowed response time, according to Beasley-Jones.

Michael Wilson, operational superintendent with Murray Electric Systems, said fewer than 100 customers experienced outages. He said most calls were individual issues created by ice on power lines and tree limbs which were quickly fixed.

All Land Between The Lakes offices and buildings in Golden Pond were closed Wednesday. The area lost power late Tuesday and had no electricity, phone or water service. Crews were working Wednesday and officials hope services would be restored within 24 hours depending on additional wind and refreezing, according to Denise Schmittou, LBL public affairs specialist.

She said ice on power lines and fallen tree branches contributed to the outages and made roads, including the Woodland Trace National Scenic Byway, treacherous. Schmittou advised people to avoid driving in the area or to use extreme caution.

Keith Todd, spokesman with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said minimal issues were reported after midnight Wednesday and said the cleanup after the 2009 ice storm contributed to the decrease in issues.

"After the ice storm, there was a six-month cleanup where dead trees were removed and others were cut back," he said. "Credit also goes to the utility companies who have been aggressive with their trimming projects."

A traffic signal in Marshall County on the U.S. 641 Spur at the intersection with Ky. 58 was damaged because of increased weight from accumulated ice. The incident closed the area to traffic about an hour Tuesday night. The signal will take one and two weeks to replace and the intersection will function as a four-way stop until then.

Tree branches were reported in roads in Calloway and McCracken counties as well as water over highways from snow blocking drainage areas, according to Todd.

He said the primary concern is clearing highways of limbs displaced by 10 to 25 mph winds and keeping roads dry to decrease the chance of refreezing and black ice.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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