The 10th anniversary of the severe winter 2000 ice storms of December 13 and December 25 is almost here. These storms had an impact on about 80 percent of AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO®) service area.
Some 329,300 SWEPCO customers lost power at some point during the 23-day recovery process. More than 90 percent of those customers had electricity restored in six days, however.
The two storms were the worst in SWEPCO’s 98-year history, and total recovery cost was $35.4 million dollars. More than 4,900 SWEPCO and contract personnel were dedicated to storm recovery work. The second worst storms in the company’s history came from damage after Hurricanes Rita (2005) and Ike (2008), when some 187,000 customers lost power following their landfall.
SWEPCO has an emergency preparedness team at the Shreveport, La.-based Distribution Dispatch Center that continuously monitors winter storm conditions in the company’s Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas service areas.
SWEPCO work crews are on standby alert for power restoration efforts.
“Winter storms can do extensive damage to our electrical system,” said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO’s vice president of distribution region operations in Shreveport. “The combination of ice build-up, snow, high winds and heavy rains can often lead to uprooted trees or broken limbs on power lines.”
SWEPCO anticipates the increased workload and mobilizes crews to potential affected areas. “The distribution and transmission dispatch area tracks all restoration efforts in order to provide updated information for the public with three daily reports through the local news media,” said David Milford, manager of transmission dispatch operations.
“The company’s Customer Solutions Center (CSC) is staffed around the clock to take power outage calls from concerned customers,” according to Linda Cosby, CSC manager for SWEPCO.
Tree crews across the area are prepared to respond to adverse weather conditions. “Our contract tree crews are available for immediate access when needed in winter storms,” stated Danny Salter, SWEPCO forestry manager.
“SWEPCO has a comprehensive storm manual that addresses tree trimming issues, and the removal and trimming of many trees annually helps prevent some potential power outage situations.”
SWEPCO’s primary objective in its Emergency Restoration Plan is to restore electric service to all customers as safely and quickly as possible, and provide timely and accurate updated information to customers affected by service interruptions.
Anthony Zeno, SWEPCO emergency restoration director, said “An orderly, well-coordinated approach to service restoration is needed, since SWEPCO’s territory is hit on average by some 60 storm days a year, including ice storms and other extreme weather conditions that can cause widespread damage.”
In major power outages, SWEPCO’s first priorities are damage assessment and restoration of power to critical customers, such as hospitals, emergency services, major communications facilities and customers on life support equipment. “Our crews must repair major electric lines which serve hundreds or thousands of customers before they can repair scattered outages,” says Smoak. “We begin working as soon as possible in an efficient manner to identify and repair these problems in the field.”
SWEPCO’s primary concern during storm restoration is safety for the public and its employees. If customers should see a hazardous condition such as a fallen power line or broken equipment, or if safety in general is in doubt, stay away, keep others back, and call SWEPCO’s customer service number at 1-888-216-3523, or the local police immediately to report the situation. SWEPCO’s power outage report number is 1-888-218-3919, available 24 hours a day.
SWEPCO serves 114,000 customers in western Arkansas, 210,000 in northwestern Louisiana and 180,000 customers in East and North Texas.