The number of destructive storms Tennessee Valley residents have endured this spring and summer, including back-to-back tornados in July, and a stormy start to August, have led to unique challenges for Huntsville Utilities and their customers.
We have seen dozens of trees fallen onto power lines across Madison County, utility poles blown to the ground dragging dangerous powerlines down with them, and even deeply sunken utility poles, snapped off like twigs, leaving thousands of customers without power.
Unfortunately, with hurricane season well under way, we are unlikely to see any easing in the number of powerful thunderstorms, flash floods and tornados we will have from now through November.
Huntsville Utilities wants customers to understand their process for getting the power back on for all customers after any power outage. We also want to explain how and why unusual circumstances like downed poles and power lines take longer.
Customers should know Huntsville Utilities works intimately with the National Weather Service on every weather event, regardless of how large or small, how mild or dangerous an approaching storm is.
When weather threatens, dozens of Huntsville Utilities crews following predictions from the NWS, are standing by with dozens and utility trucks loaded with spare parts, repair tools and power poles, well in advance of the storm’s approach.
They are ready to roll, as soon as they get the all-clear from NWS.
A lineman’s job is dangerous under everyday conditions, but once the warnings have been cancelled and there are no lightning strikes in the area, Huntsville Utilities hit the roads, working to restore power, often while the rain still rages.
For customers, all power outages are the same – bad.
But for Huntsville Utilities, all power outages are not only bad, but they aren’t created equal.
Huntsville Utilities works the largest outages first, often capable of quickly repairing a substation, making it possible to restore power to large swathes of customers.
The problem is the widely scattered outages caused by downed power poles, blown transformers and power lines.
Not only do those damages take longer to fix, but the outages are often spread across a broad area.
If you are wondering why the house across the street has power but you and a handful of customers on the same street do not, the problem is likely downed power lines and poles that can selectively take out only a handful of homes on a street.
And when that happens all across the county like it did in July, linemen have to go street by street by street by street, sometimes in the dark, or drenching rain, to get every home and business back up and running.
It helps for customers to always be weather ready and prepared in cases where the power does go out.
If you have medical issues or therapies that rely on electricity, Huntsville Utilities recommends always having a backup plan between you and your doctor about what to do in an emergency.
Invest in a battery-operated weather radio – keep fresh batteries on hand all the time – it will provide a lot of information about what is happening in the community, even when the power is off.
If it is economically possible, buy a generator. They come in all sizes and price ranges and can help families cook, maintain indoor toilets, have lights, and run a water heater or an air conditioner on a short-term basis.
Just know that Huntsville Utilities is always working to restore outages quickly and safely, regardless of how many people are affected or where they are in the county.