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When ice and heavy snow bring down limbs and power lines

When ice and heavy snow bring down limbs and power lines, safety is a consideration indoors and outside. Make sure you know how to weather the storm.

As January 2011 makes way for February, most of the Midwest has endured more snow than normal over the last two months. But Mother Nature has at least one more big punch heading our way, and this storm may dwarf those that came before it.

Weather forecasters are using terms like ‘crippling,’ ‘winter storm of the century,’ and ‘blizzard’ to describe what could impact the eastern 2/3 of the country over the next 72 hours. While most of the area will see significant snowfall, the most dangerous conditions could come from ice accumulations that are expected to top the one inch mark.

Why is an inch of ice more of a problem for power lines than, say, a foot of snow? One inch of ice on a single span of power line weighs as much as 1,250 pounds. And that weight is more damaging than wind in terms of bringing down tree limbs and power lines.

The weight of ice on the lines can bring down utility poles as well. While Tipmont REMC will have crews working to restore power around the clock, some repairs simply take longer than others. And while the lines outside your home might be fine, the high-voltage transmission lines can also be affected by ice storms.

Do you wonder how your co-op decides where to start restoring power? The focus begins with fixing the biggest problems first, prioritizing repairs according to how quickly and safely they can get the most homes back into service.

Think of the flow of electricity as a river in reverse. It originates at a single ocean of power (a generation plant) and diverges from there into a series of transmission lines, substations, and smaller feeder lines until it reaches home and business at a trickle of its original strength.

Transmission lines, which carry power at high voltages from power plants, and local substations, where the voltage is lowered for safe travel to neighborhoods, must both be inspected for damage, then repairs must be made before any other efforts take place. After all, if the substation linked to your neighborhood’s power supply has been damaged, it doesn’t matter if lineworkers repair every problem near your home – the lights will stay dark.

After restoring the flow of power to local substations, Tipmont REMC will focus on getting power back to the greatest number of members. Distribution lines in highly populated cities and communities are checked for damage and repaired quickly, delivering electricity to most members.

What does this mean? You might live on a farm with neighbors a mile or two away, or you could live in a neighborhood surrounded by 10 or 20 homes. Folks in neighborhoods will likely see power return before members in remote areas. Line repairs are once again prioritized by the number of members who benefit.

After fixing damage blocking power from large groups of members, the co-op focuses on repairing tap lines (also called supply or service lines). These lines deliver power to transformers outside homes and businesses. This is the final stage of power restoration, requiring a bit more patience.

Individual households may receive special attention if loss of electricity affects life-support systems or poses another immediate danger. If you, or a family member, depend on special medical equipment, call Tipmont REMC before an emergency arises.

Please take steps now to prepare for the potential of an extended outage. Our crews will be doing their part to safely restore power as quickly as possible. Do your part to ensure your own safety and comfort, just in case the crippling storm of the century brings a blizzard to your back yard.

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