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Utility companies prepare for icy mess

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Posted at 7:49 PM, Jan 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-10 19:49:02-05

LANSING, Mich. — As Fox 47 continues to monitor Saturday's forecast, so are crews from Consumers Energy and Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL).

Their biggest worry during this weekend's storm is freezing rain and ice, as less than an inch of ice around a power line can take out a whole cable.

"If that ice comes down, or that freezing rain comes down, and coats power lines, that's where you can see outages," said Brian Wheeler, Consumers Energy Spokesperson.

And with a build-up of ice, it doesn't take much to take down a power line, it doesn't take much to take down a power line.

"If you get a half of an inch that's as much as if you had 500 pounds of pressure on a power line so that's a real concern," said Wheeler.

And a not so distant memory.

Both BWL and Consumers remember Lansing's winter storm of 2013 where ice was more than a half an inch thick around power lines, causing hundreds of thousands of power outages for up to two weeks.

"The 2013 storm is something we keep in mind," said Wheeler.

"What we saw in 2013 was an ice build-up of 7/10ths of an inch, tomorrow they are saying we could get anywhere from .5 to an inch so that's what we are preparing for," said Dick Peffley, the BWL General Manager.

Crews for both BWL and Consumers were out Friday packing equipment and prepping trucks for Saturday.

"We have created what we call mobile storm units. These are large trailers that are stocked with materials that our crews will use in the field so our crews don't have to return back to the service center to get more supplies," said Wheeler.

BWL says power restoration will be faster than years previously, as they have been trimming trees to prepare for storms.

"Instead of trying to put the wire back up through a maze of tree branches, it's pretty open," said Peffley.

As crews are trying to get ahead of the storm, they warn the public to do the same by taking precautions when they come across a downed power line.

"Assume that it's energized and assume that it's unsafe and stay a safe distance away," said Wheeler.

"Sometimes people think that is just a cable line or something that doesn't have the voltage to it and you're only going to get one time that mistake," said Peffley.

BWL says it takes about six hours to repair a downed power line, that's if conditions are safe for workers.

If winds are higher than 40 mph, it's unsafe for crews and it will take longer to restore power.

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