Winter storm prompts discussion of power line safety
MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) - With ice and wind causing power outages across the state, Consumers Energy said they work year-round to prevent power lines from becoming electrical hazards during the winter months.
After a firefighter in Paw Paw was killed by coming into contact with a downed power line, Consumers Energy discussed the preparatory work they do to prevent similar tragedies from happening.
“Our training is the extent of, ‘I have a downed power line, stay away from it,’” said Robert Burdette, the Fire Chief of Grand Blanc Township Fire Department.
For that reason, Burdette said the Fire Department leaves those dangerous situations to energy company professionals.
“We don’t touch them with anything, we just let them lie there. We let the power companies come through and say, ‘Well, we can tell it’s a dead line because of the fuse being blown,’ or any other reasons, but we leave it to them,” Burdette said.
High wind speeds and freezing ice rain are common this time of year and together can cause frozen tree limbs to break, fall, and snap nearby power lines.
Tracy Wimmer with Consumers Energy said this is why the company goes out several times a year to evaluate trees that may need trimming.
“Our forestry program has done a lot of work over the last several years really ramping up efforts to go out and assess trees and mark them for trimming before major events, like the storm that we experienced this week took place. Precisely because they want to limit the number of downed wires or other issues that we see happen when we get these extreme weather situations,” Wimmer said.
Wimmer said in 2022, crews completed 7,100 miles of forestry trimming and maintenance around power lines, addressing the number one cause of power outages in Michigan.
She said even just a half inch of ice can put as much weight on a power line as a baby grand piano, causing the line to snap.
“When you see as much ice as we got, even with the extraordinary efforts that we’ve made over the last several years to do that preparatory work, it was still going to be inevitable that we were going to see pretty significant damage from such a unique weather situation.”
Consumers Energy said that anyone who sees a downed power line should stay at least 25 feet away and call 911 immediately.
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