Power co. First Electric explains process for restoring electricity

    7:05 PM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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    JACKSONVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) - A power outage can be frustrating and inconvenient to people that it affects. There are no lights, no heat or air conditioning, no way to charge the phone or computer, etc. Many Arkansans remember the pain of having no power for multiple days after the December 25, 2012 snow storm, which left thousands of people without electricity for a solid week.

    "Most of the (repairs) took hours," recalled Marshall Smith, a serviceman with First Electric Cooperatives. "Broken poles, limbs, lines down everywhere. It was quite an ordeal."

    Smith has been a First Electric Serviceman for 15 years and knows that working big outages like the one on Christmas Day is just part of the job.

    "There's fatigue, long hours," he said. "We had a lot of help, we had outside help come in. I think we did a pretty good job. We got them back up as quickly as we could."

    The biggest challenge for those types of events is getting the most amount of people back online in the least amount of time.

    "At the peak of the outage we had about 30,000 people out of power. Total restoration for everybody took about 8 days," said Larry Harp, Vice President of Operations for First Electric Cooperative.

    Harp and Smith talked Friday about the process for handling massive power outages.

    "Anytime we have a major outage our first priority is always getting the transmission stations back on, because without those on, nobody has power," Harp said.

    The next step is restoring power to the main feeders, then they work their way to getting other customers' electricity on.

    "Unfortunately, we sort of work our way to the end of the line, because of course for the folks at the end of the line to have power we have to get the power turned on at the beginning of the line," he explained.

    Of course, most of the mass outages are a result of the weather, which presents power companies with their biggest challenge.

    "Usually during severe weather - especially ice storms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, things like that - that's when our peak outages hit."

    The Christmas Day storm cost First Electric alone about $1.6 million.


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