The average snowfall in Macon County last week measured anywhere from six to 12 inches in various areas. A lot of people found themselves knocked out of work, unable to leave their homes as a result of ice covered roads. Despite being stranded, a silver lining accompanied the storm — very few power outages occurred in the area.
In anticipation of Winter Storm Pax as it was dubbed, Duke Energy began to move crews from other areas of the country into North Carolina and South Carolina. A total of 150 workers from the company's Midwest operations and another 250 from Florida moved to the region in order to work with existing crews of line technicians, service crews and other personnel employed by Duke.
“The severity and impact of the storm depends on several factors, including temperatures and wind. But the clouds are gathering and we are prepared for whatever comes our way,” said Jeff Corbett, senior vice president of Duke Energy's Carolinas Delivery Operations on Monday, Feb. 10, just before the storm set in.
And prepared they were, at least here anyway. In N.C. and S.C., according to Duke officials, as of Monday an estimated 907,981 customer outages were restored after one of the largest winter storms of the past decade hit the states. In Macon County, that number never surpassed 200.
Duke Energy Nantahala Area district manager for government and community relations, Lisa Leatherman says the number reported was low considering the size-able system of snow that swept through the county.
“We were well prepared, but we were also fortunate,” said Leatherman. “Usually, in a storm like that, the number of reported outages is going to be pretty high. We were relieved that there were not many calls.”
In other parts of the state, in order to restore power after high winds and downpours of snow and ice, crews were required to clear trees, replace poles, restring power lines and replace transformers. Locally, many residents saw Davey Tree crews out and about before the storm, trimming tree limbs and brush that were in the same vicinity of power lines. Without the attention, heavy snowfall could have bent the limbs or broken them, obstructing lines.
“We didn't specifically send out crews to cut limbs, but trees and brush can be a big issue when it snows so to remedy that, we keep crews on multiple circuits throughout the service area to cut or trim branches,” said Leatherman. “Sometimes people don't appreciate you cutting their trees, but for the most part when we've cut them on the rightof- ways, we've been getting positive responses.”
Catherine Butler, Associate Communications Consultant at Duke Energy points to the steps that the organization takes in preparedness during the calm before the storm as the big reason for prompt service when storms like the one last week roll in.
“We have a team of meteorologists on our staff that keep an eye on storms like the one that hit the Carolinas,” she said. “Aside from the circuits that continually run throughout the year with the tree cutting, we make sure that all of our equipment is in working order beforehand so that we can respond quickly to reported outages.”
Duke Energy Progress customers that may experience power outages can report them at 1-800-POWERON (1-800-769-3766).