The Ottumwa Courier

December 20, 2012

Storms knock out power in Wapello County

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Approximately 1,200 customers in Wapello County are without power this morning due to “galloping lines” from high winds.

Alliant spokesperson Ryan Stensland said Wapello County is experiencing widespread outages, with approximately 1,200 without power at 11 a.m. Thursday.

“In Ottumwa itself, you’re not sitting too bad,” Stensland said. “There are only about 20 without power there.”

It’s in rural Wapello County that customers are having trouble.

“We’re finding wind is causing some of those outages and the snow is presenting a challenge to getting where the outages are occurring,” Stensland said.

Eddyville is experiencing the largest outage right now, with approximately 500 customers without power. Around 215 in Agency are without power. And in the rural area between Hedrick and Eddyville sit 200 customers without power.

The biggest problem in Wapello County is what Stensland calls “galloping lines,” where two lines start hitting each other as the wind starts blowing.

“That causes the breaker, like in a home, to open and it automatically shuts itself down to protect the system,” he said. “They’re designed to restart themselves but in some cases they’re not able to do that.”

Other areas are seeing downed lines and tree branches falling into lines, making this a typical combination of winter storm problems, he said.

“I think some people attribute the snow to causing the outages, but it’s not necessarily the snow itself, it’s more the wind,” he said. “Then the snow is presenting challenges of getting to where we need to get to.”

What’s interesting about this storm is that while there are 1,200 without power, there are only 18 separate outages.

“What that’s saying is as we’re able to get to spots, make repairs and get customers back on, it will bring on a good number of customers at a time,” he said.

In ice storms when there are this number of customers without power, Stensland said the outages are usually spread out over around 300 separate locations.

“We don’t have the individual service outages with this storm as we’ve had with others,” he said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that that will continue and crews will be able to get where they need to get.”

Stensland said crews hope to get power back to everyone within the next 24 hours.

“Part of this is based on when the wind starts to go down and roads get cleared,” he said. “Optimistically, we’ll pick up some of those customers late this afternoon and into the evening.”

If customers do notice an outage, Stensland says they need to report it.

“Stay safe,” he said. “There may be a tree branch in the line, so don’t pull it down by yourself.”