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Ahead of the storm

0109
 2014


If you see a downed power line, call Bluebonnet’s power outage number: 800-949-4414. If the downed line appears to pose an immediate threat to life or property, call 911.

You can probably count on two hands the number of times Central Texas has turned into a snowcovered wintery wonderland.

This time of year, ice storms are a more likely weather danger. A large one can wreak more havoc on power lines and poles than a tornado or hurricane.

When conditions are right — freezing temperatures on the ground and warmer ones in the atmosphere — precipitation can turn to freezing rain, sleet or ice which coats trees and power lines in a heavy sheath. The weight of ice can cause power lines to sag and fall, limbs to break and even power poles to snap. That’s a very big problem for Bluebonnet’s distribution system, but one for which the co-op is always prepared.

“In the event of outages caused by a winter storm, as soon as it’s safe, our line crews will be in the field assessing and repairing the damage,” said Eric Kocian, Bluebonnet’s manager of electric operations.

If the damage is extensive, Bluebonnet may ask other electric cooperatives for help.

However, depending on how severe the storm was and how widespread the damage, it could take hours or even days to get power restored to all members.

The most important question: Are you prepared for an extended power outage caused by an ice storm?

You will need a three-day supply of water (one rule of thumb is a gallon per person per day) and food that can be prepared without electricity, such as canned goods and ready-to-eat prepared meals.

Blankets, a flashlight or candles and a battery-powered radio are also useful items to have in a winter preparedness kit. Be careful if you need to go outside. Slipping on ice can lead to broken bones or worse.

Even after the storm is over, the danger persists. Power lines brought down by ice pose the greatest electrical risk because you can’t tell whether they are still energized.

“You cannot tell whether a power line is (energized) just by looking at it,” said Brett Brenner, president of Electrical Safety Foundation International. “Always assume that downed power lines are (energized) and keep at least 10 feet away from them and anything touching them.”

If you see a downed power line, call Bluebonnet’s power outage number: 800-949-4414. If the downed line appears to pose an immediate threat to life or property, call 911.

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