Thunder strikes, the house shakes and the lights go out. With large storms, losing power is not an uncommon occurrence. However, many people don’t consider the work of linesmen who go out to repair downed lines and poles when inclement weather knocks them down.
Lamar County and Northeast Texas have had more than their fair share of large storms this year, and Lamar County Electric Co-op General Manager Jerry Williams said they’ve seen far more downed poles and lines as a result.
“There’s been a definite increase in calls so far this year,” he said. “I’d say we’ve probably had twice as many so far this year as we would in a more normal year.”
Williams said the local electric co-op has responded to at least a dozen broken poles in the last 60 days due to wind.
“That’s quite a lot because there are some years where there are none that fall over solely due to the wind,” he said. “There are always going to be poles that break because trees fall on them, but the number of poles that’ve fallen because of wind is higher than we’ve seen in several years.”
Some isolated wind gusts have reached speeds of 100 mph, Williams said, and strong winds have become even more potent. Also contributing is the way the soil has become so saturated due to frequent rain, he said.
Larry Willis, area manager of the Paris-Sulphur Springs region of Oncor Electric Delivery, agreed, saying it has affected all of East Texas and the rest of the state, too.
“This year, we’ve had more damage than I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “Our crews have been great with handling it, though.”
Willis and Williams both praised the work of linesmen.
“It can be dangerous work, but they’re safety conscious and have done a wonderful job,” Willis said.
Williams said several crews have worked through the night to repair lines and restore power to areas.
“There’ve probably been five times recently where they stayed out all through the night the get the job done,” he said.
Despite all the work linesmen have had to do this year, Williams said it could’ve been much worse, if not for an effort by Lamar County that began roughly eight years ago to remove trees in right-of-way of power lines.
“We started getting rid of trees that were hanging too close to poles, meaning we’re not seeing many trees breaking lines,” he said.
Williams said that if trees had not been removed from poles, parts of the county might have seen outages lasting several days this year. Instead, he said, the longest outings haven’t been more than 12 hours.
“That’s what you’ve seen in other parts of the state, outages lasting two, three days,” he said.
Williams said the work has had a financial impact on the co-op, though not a serious one.
“It’s definitely had an impact, with lots of overtime, but we’re close to budget with the amount we’d budgeted,” he said.