CEO Message — February 2019

Ice falls in sheets and wires spring back after a lineman uses an insulated “hot stick” to knock ice off the power line. See more ice-storm photos in the article “The Ice Storm Cometh”. Photograph courtesy of Jacob “Magurt” Manning

Thick fog and bitter cold temperatures for days on end blanketed power lines in heavy ice. The weight of the ice not only took a toll on the power lines, it shredded branches from trees which often fell on the power lines as well.

It’s been a long battle for line crews fighting to keep electricity flowing despite unusual winter weather. Ice accumulation on power lines, as much as four inches thick, and nearby trees led to numerous “bumps” and several outages in mid-January.

In every column I write, my goal is to help you understand what is happening at your electric cooperative. One situation our line crew encountered illustrates why the ice buildup was such a challenge.

A member called our 24-hour customer service center at 1-800-566-6696 to report an outage. When crews arrived, they found that the weight of the ice on the overhead wires had pulled an anchor out of the ground. Without the anchor, the wires lost tension and slapped together causing a short circuit. Normally, crews would install a new anchor and restore safe clearances but the ground was frozen so hard that even our most powerful digger truck couldn’t drill through. Imagine that scene. The ground is so solidly frozen that crews couldn’t dig through it but the weight of the ice pulled an anchor out anyway.

Our crew had to come up with “Plan B”. They hauled in a 4,800 pound concrete road barrier to serve as a temporary anchor. They used trucks and winches to pull the wires back into place and connected the guy wire to the barrier. By morning, the ice had thickened so much that the weight bent the pole, drug the concrete block forward and stood it on its end. Time for Plan C.

In many respects, the power lines held up miraculously well under unprecedented conditions. In other cases, the ice exposed places where improvements are needed. For now, we are making essential repairs. Once the weather improves, we will focus on making the system even more reliable and resilient.

Keeping the grid on and making repairs required a Herculean effort. We appreciate our members who reported outages by calling 1-800-566-6696. Your calls helped crews pinpoint the trouble spots and restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Crews worked tirelessly, with support from office staff, to remove ice keeping your homes warm and your businesses open.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer