Ice Storm Freezes the Flow of Electricity in the Midwest

Power utility company crews and contractors faced a daunting task last month, following a winter storm that left as many as 1 million homes and businesses without electric power.

Over the weekend of Dec. 9-10, 2007, ice downed trees and power lines through much of the Central Plains and Midwest and glazed streets and highways, making emergency services and restoration of power and telecommunications difficult and dangerous.

Governors of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma quickly declared states of emergency, and on Dec. 11, 2007, President Bush declared a federal emergency in Oklahoma. The ice storm was the state’s worst ever, leaving approximately 620,000 customers without power two days after the storm hit. Another 350,000 customers were affected by outages in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. Scores of deaths are attributed to the storms.

Utility companies and contractor crews quickly arrived in the stricken areas to help with the massive restoration task. In Oklahoma, crews from as far as the East Coast helped restore services.

Although company offices were without power because of the storm, Bison Electric Inc., Tulsa, Okla., quickly mobilized 10 crews that began restoration work in the state and southwestern Missouri.

“We’re working under the direction of utility companies in various areas,” said Leslie Simmons, president of Bison Electric. “Whatever they need, we are there to do.”

Simmons said Bison personnel are experienced in restoring power after disasters.

“We do line work across the country, and any time there is a major emergency, we are ready to assist,” said Simmons. “We were one of many contractors who sent crews to the Gulf Coast area after Katrina.”

On the day the storm struck, Quanta Services Inc., Houston, began to mobilize crews from its nationwide work force to prepare to support the restoration efforts of more than a dozen utilities in the widespread area impacted by the ice storm.

By Dec. 12, 2007, Quanta had deployed more than 1,500 employees from seven operating units, including Dillard Smith Construction Co., MJ Electric, North Houston Pole Line and PAR Electrical Contractors Inc. Quanta, operating unit crews, worked extended hours to clear downed power lines and vegetation, repair infrastructure, and install new power lines to restore power to the impacted areas in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.

“Quanta will continue to support the utilities and the communities impacted by the ice storm to repair damaged infrastructure. Our commitment is to help get the power back on,” said John Wilson, Quanta Services president of electric power and gas operations. Quanta is a provider of specialized contracting services for the electrical power, telecommunications, broadband cable and gas pipeline industries.

By the end of the week, service had been restored to about half the customers without power, but about 300,000 electric customers were waiting for electricity in Oklahoma alone. A snowstorm struck Kansas the weekend after the ice storm, but had little effect in Oklahoma, and Sunday ushered in a week of good weather.

A week before Christmas, utilities said repairs to infrastructures were mostly completed, but the Associated Press reported 91,000 customers in Oklahoma and 24,000 in Kansas remained without power, many in neighborhoods where service had to be restored to individual structures. About 30,000 Oklahomans without electricity could not be reconnected until property homeowners made repairs to meters and boxes that had been torn out of exterior walls when tree limbs fell on power lines.

Helping address that issue was Osborne Electric Co. Inc., Oklahoma City.

The week after the storm found 13 Osborne Electric crews working across the metropolitan Oklahoma City area, restoring meters and service risers, said Bryon Brandon, vice president of services.  EC




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