Utilities protect power lines from potential storm damage

Posted September 3, 2008 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2008 8:44 p.m. EDT

— Trees are another word for "trouble" when the Triangle gets hit with severe weather, from a hurricane to an ice storm.

When trees fall, they often bring power lines down with them. So, utilities work year-round trimming potentially troublesome limbs to minimize the inconvenience of losing power.

"We have a lot of trees in North Carolina, but when storms come, they do become the culprit and they create a lot of outages," Progress Energy Inc. spokesman Mike Hughes said.

Progress Energy didn't send any crews to the Gulf Coast to help after Hurricane Gustav struck Monday. The crews are staying close to home, watching Hanna's track and getting ready.

Hughes said repair crews would be stationed to provide the best coverage of damaged areas, depending on the track of the storm, and the utility also has asked neighboring utilities for assistance if Hanna causes damage in eastern North Carolina.

When Hurricane Fran blew through the Triangle in 1996, thousands of downed trees knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of electric customers.

"We did have trees that were down all up and down the road and (in) other people's yards," Harnett County resident Betty Jo Arnold said.

Arnold lost power for more than a week after Fran, and she said she's glad Progress Energy contract crews are more aggressive trimming back trees between storms.

"This is a good idea. It's nice to have power, even in spite of the storm," she said.

Trees still outpace the cutting, such as some in downtown Raleigh that have branches that swallow up the power lines.

Hughes said past storms taught Progress Energy and other utilities to communicate better, giving customers firm predictions on when power will be restored.

"I might stay home with my family if I know it's going to be restored tomorrow. I might have to move to a relative's home or take some other means if I know it's going to be the next day," he said.