A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives urge members to prepare, more ice and snow pose significant risk

The winter weather predicted this week could result in significant power outages across the state because it comes on the heels of last week’s ice accumulation which has not melted in some areas. Electric cooperatives across Kentucky are stressing safety and encouraging co-op consumer-members to prepare for power outages and to avoid travel, if possible.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, crews were still working to restore power to about 7,000 co-op consumer-members, primarily in northeastern Kentucky.

Mututal aid crews from Nolin RECC assist Grayson RECC (Photo by Jamie Price)

“Electric cooperative crews are already facing very challenging conditions, especially in northeastern Kentucky, to restore power after more than a half-inch of ice brought down trees and snapped poles four days ago,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “With heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain likely across Kentucky through Tuesday, co-ops are again gearing up and urging co-op members to take this situation seriously and avoid downed power lines.”

“The added weight may cause lines to snap off the poles or cause the poles to break,” Perry explained. “That can bring power lines into contact with the ground, trees, homes, vehicles and other objects. If people or pets come in contact with a live power line, they can suffer serious injury or even death.”

In addition, co-ops report that the primary cause of power outages in some areas of the state has been drivers losing control on black ice and striking utility poles.

“For everyone’s safety, we urge you to avoid travel unless completely necessary, and especially take great care when driving near power restoration crews,” said Charlie Lewis, a safety instructor with Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “The top priority of electric cooperatives is safety. Co-op line technicians and mutual aid crews will work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.”

Due to dangerous conditions, many residents may be confined to their homes for days at a time. That’s why it is important to have a plan in place, especially during these prolonged outages. To prepare for prolonged outages, co-ops advise consumer-members to charge mobile phones and power banks and pack a storm preparedness kit stocked with:

• Bottled water 
• Non-perishable food  
• Emergency blankets 
• First aid kit/medicine 
• Flashlight 
• Battery operated or hand-crank radio 
• Extra batteries 
• Toiletries

While indoors, many will turn their focus to staying warm. If homes are not using a generator, keep warm air in and cool air out by not opening doors to unused rooms. Do not open doors to the outdoors unless necessary.

Food safety is also important when there is a prolonged outage. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible, and eat perishable food first. Stock up on ice so that you can keep things in coolers to keep them from going bad if an outage lasts longer than a day. Once the refrigerator reaches temperatures higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, foods can become unsafe to eat.

To protect homes’ electrical equipment during an outage, turn off and unplug all unnecessary electronics or appliances. This will keep equipment from being damaged by surges or spikes when the power returns.

Once an outage is over, there are still safety precautions to take. Electrical power lines could still be down. If you see downed power lines, do not touch them. Call your local co-op or 911.

United Utility Supply

The emergency response plan remains active at United Utility Supply, a leading material supply organization serving the rural electric market with headquarters in Louisville.

“As a cooperative partner, UUS stands ready with material, personnel, and other co-op needs,” Perry said.

Ahead of last week’s ice storm, UUS moved material from its other warehouses to Kentucky and placed key vendors on alert to be ready to bolster supplies. UUS serves electric cooperatives in 17 states with a complete line of materials critical to the electric utility industry, such as transformers, conductor (electric wires), poleline hardware, grounding equipment, utility poles, tools, and safety supplies.

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are in constant contact with emergency officials, fellow co-ops in surrounding states and each other to strategize and respond to the winter storms.

From Kentucky Electric Cooperatives

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