Plan ahead for prolonged power outages


Wet snow or ice can bring down South Kentucky RECC power lines and poles, as witnessed in February 2021. (Photo by South Kentucky RECC Field Services Manager Bruce Parkey)


Winter can be beautiful with its blanket of white. Its fury can also produce icy roads, sub-zero wind chills, and power outages.

"Unfortunately, a heavy, wet snow and accumulating ice can easily bring tree limbs down on power lines, cutting off power to homes and businesses," says Kevin Newton, Chief Operating Officer of South Kentucky RECC. "Even melting ice and snow can be a problem because power lines will spring up and become entangled as the ice falls off the lines.

Newton says planning for outages brought on by severe winter conditions can make enduring a prolonged power outage safer and more comfortable.

The length of time it takes for your power to be restored depends on several factors: the extent of the storm's destruction, the number of outages in South Kentucky RECC's service territory, and when it becomes safe for co-op personnel to get to the affected areas.

Take steps to help keep your family safe and comfortable during a winter storm. A good way to start is to put an emergency kit together. South Kentucky RECC's Safety and Loss Control Manager Eric Chumbley suggests starting with these items:

• Water: Stock up on bottled water for consumption. FEMA recommends storing at least one gallon per person, per day.

• Food: Have at least enough food, including non-perishable packaged or canned foods, juices, special foods for infants or the elderly, and snack foods, for three to seven days.

• Utensils: Without electricity, be sure you have a manual can opener, paper plates, and plastic utensils.

• Layers and added warmth: Gather blankets, pillows, and warm clothing items.

• Medicine and other items: Locate a first aid kit, medicine, prescription drugs, and any essential medical equipment.

• A charged cell phone: Most people are used to having their phones with them, but also have a portable, fully-charged power pack on hand.

Also gather:

• Toiletries, hygiene items, and moist towelettes.

• Flashlight and extra batteries.

• Battery-operated radio or a NOAA weather radio.

• List of emergency telephone numbers, including South Kentucky RECC (800-264-5112).

• Toys, books, and games.

• Pet food and other pet-care items.

• Supplies for alternate heating methods, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Before winter begins, report broken tree limbs or limbs that may compromise South Kentucky RECC electric lines to the co-op. South Kentucky RECC Right-of-way will remove limbs that could fall on power lines if they become covered in ice or snow. (Keep in mind that only certified line clearance tree trimming professionals are authorized and allowed to trim trees near power lines. NEVER attempt to do it yourself.)

Other safety tips include:

• Use caution when using a portable generator.

• Never use a portable generator indoors, in a garage, or near windows or doors because they omit deadly carbon monoxide.

• Never plug a portable generator into a wall outlet. Doing so can create deadly backfeed, which occurs when electricity travels from the generator back through the power lines.

• Monitor the temperature in your home. Infants and elderly people are more susceptible to the cold.

• Avoid going outside. Downed power lines could be submerged in snow and ice, making them difficult to identify. Consider all downed and hanging lines energized and deadly.

• Have a plan of somewhere to go if you require some type of electrical medical device or oxygen.

In addition to outages, wintery conditions can create interruptions in power delivery that include blinking lights or ebbs and flows in the amount of power that comes into your home. Although blinking lights can be a symptom of other problems such as loose wiring connections or overloaded circuits, they can also be caused by extreme weather conditions. When this happens, protect your circuits and appliances by switching off lights and unplugging devices.

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