On Friday, Dec. 8, snow blanketed south Mississippi, affecting all seven counties in Dixie Electric’s service area. Snow laying on pine tree branches was certainly beautiful. Unfortunately, the weight of the snow brought challenges.
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, weather forecasts mentioned a possible light dusting of snow on Friday, Dec. 8, up to one inch. On Thursday, the forecast grew to two inches. By Friday afternoon, five to seven inches had fallen across south Mississippi.
An inch or two of snow would have likely caused a few scattered outages. Five inches or more caused numerous outages across our entire system because trees and tree limbs, especially pines, break under the weight of the snow. By Friday afternoon, more than 9,600 of Dixie Electric’s members were without power.
Restoration took three days, utilizing all of Dixie Electric’s operation and engineering personnel along with MDR Line Construction contractors, right of way crews, and crews from other electric cooperatives. Coast Electric Power Association, Alcorn County Electric Power and Natchez Trace Electric Power Association sent linemen to assist with restoration.
“I’m always appreciative of the other electric cooperatives who send linemen when we need their assistance. Twice this year we’ve been asked to assist other cooperatives with restoration. Now, we needed assistance, and they were there to help us,” General Manager Randy Smith said.
Every major outage has its own set of challenges. The biggest challenge in the aftermath of the snowstorm was the numerous outages in separate locations, making restoration a slow process. These individual outages were spread across nearly 5,000 miles of power line in portions of seven counties.
“When we have an outage caused by a tornado, it is usually focused in one localized area. Thunderstorms that move through our area typically affect some areas, but others remain untouched. This was different. These were small outages spread across literally the entire system that had to handled individually,” Smith added.
In some cases, the same power line had to be repaired several times, because a limb would break and take down the power line. As the crew left the area after restoring it, another limb would break and take out the same power line again. In some places, this cycle occurred several times.
Storms like this are the reason that trimming the right-of-way (the area around the power lines) is vitally important. The right-of-way is cleared of trees and limbs on a six-year cycle around the nearly 5,000 miles of power line Dixie Electric serves.
“Clearing trees and limbs and spraying the underbrush around power lines is expensive, but necessary. Without properly maintained right-of-way, this outage could have been much more extensive and difficult for our linemen,” Smith said.