Area electrical power providers ready to deal with winter storm

wintry mix tests electrical power providers NEMiss.news


Electrical power providers around north Mississippi had their eyes on the weather forecasts Sunday. The weather services were unanimous in predicting wintry precipitation. The big question was whether the weather would arrive as snow, sleet or freezing rain.

Those old enough to remember the disastrous ice storm that paralyzed much of north Mississippi in 1994 were praying for snow.

Freezing rain is normally what produces the worst problems. Ice freezes on tree limbs, adding weight they cannot bear. When the limbs get so heavy that they break, they pull down power lines. Homes and businesses lose the electricity that furnishes them with lights and power for their heating systems. That’s a big deal when outside temperatures have dropped below 20F degrees.

About the only thing electrical companies can do to prevent power outages caused by freezing rain is to assure that tree limbs are not over-hanging power lines.

Keeping the tree limbs “trimmed up” is problematic in more ways than one. First, it takes lots of expensive equipment and many skilled people to trim away the limbs that overhang hundreds of miles of power lines. Secondly, it can be a political problem: trim away limbs from a home owner’s prize shade tree and the mayor and aldermen get irate telephone calls. Elected officials do not like phone calls from angry voters.

Wintry mix 2-14-21 NEMiss.News

Sleet and snow generally produce less damage than freezing rain.

Thus, keeping the trees trimmed up to prevent power outages from freezing rains becomes a complicated problem for those whose business it is to keep the electricity flowing.

Sunday afternoon NEMiss.News put the question to someone at Tupelo Water and Light (TWL). ‘Is your tree trimming in good shape to minimize power outages if we get an ice storm?’ The TWL guy – who wisely insisted on not being identified – said, “I guess every electrical company in north Mississippi will soon find out.”

Later Sunday afternoon we put the same question to Bill Mattox, general manager of New Albany Lights, Gas and Water (NALGW).

“We hope so,” Mattox said. “We have equipment and crews standing by to deal with any problems we have.”

Mattox said NALGW also has private contractors who should be available to help with problems.

Sleet falling on 2-14-21

Very little ice had accumulated on foliage and tree limbs near sundown on a wintry Saint Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14, 2021. Roads, however, were very slick.

By early Sunday evening it looked like the first part of the big winter storm had already moved through and was crossing Alabama and Tennessee. Most reports were that north Mississippi had thus far had relatively few power outages. Most of the precipitation had been in the form of sleet and fine snow, little of which stuck to tree limbs.

However, roadways throughout much of north Mississippi were slick with snow and ice. And north Mississippi drivers, not generally experienced at driving on snow and ice had had a great many minor accidents. We were not aware of any accidents with serious injuries as this is posted after 9 pm Sunday night.

But more cold air and snow is moving toward us from Oklahoma and Texas, and warm moist air is blowing up from the Gulf. More is coming tomorrow.

As the man said, “We’ll soon find out.”

Tips on preparing for winter weather: https://newalbanyunionco.com/winter-storm-warning-in-effect-be-prepared-for-emergencies/