When it comes to winter weather, we can deal with sleet and snow. Sure, it's a pain for some, but nothing is as damaging and unwanted as an ice storm. Ice storms are one of the worst winter weather issues we face. They can knock out power in an instant; meaning your lights, heat, phone and TV service are taken away. In the brutal cold of winter, being left in the dark – and cold – is the last place you want to be. However, all year-round Kansas City Power and Light is working hard to make sure ice storms don't leave you shivering and powerless.
Chris Kurtz is the Senior Director of Operations at KCP&L and his crews have already been busy prepping for anything Old Man Winter may throw our way this year.
"The biggest issue we have is trees", said Kurtz. "By far, the biggest thing we do to keep the lights on during any type of storm is tree trimming. We do tree trimming year round."
Keeping the trees out of and away from the lines is one of the biggest measures crews take in order to prevent ice from cutting off power in a snap. Once thick ice collects on tree limbs and branches, the weight can bring down trees in a hurry; sometimes right onto an active power line. Maybe even the one in your backyard. This is why the power lines themselves are carefully manufactured with ice in mind.
"We design all of our systems from scratch. They're designed to withstand certain loads of both ice and snow against wind," said Kurtz. "So in the case of ice, normally our lines can withstand about half an inch of ice and about a forty mile per hour wind."
Obviously, having the lines swaying above our heads, getting caught in the path of trees and wind, is an issue. This is why more and more powerlines are now being placed underground. However, that option is costly and not easy to do in areas that are already heavily populated. With that in mind, new technology and advancements in the current system are giving power companies an advantage against the storms.
"There are new types of conductors that withstand wind better, we're using some of those and as we go through time, they'll be some of those advancements, "said Kurtz. "There is also equipment in place that can alert us to a loss of power before anyone even gives us a call to report an outage."
So what can you do if an ice storm impacts your house this winter? KCP&L has a list of preparation tips and safety reminders on their website, which you can view here < http://www.kcpl.com/outages-and-weather/weather-center/severe-weather-safety>
And should you lose power this winter, the best and easiest way to report an outage is by calling 1-888-LIGHT-KC (544-4852). Within minutes, crews will be notified and begin the task of getting your power restored.
I asked Kurtz if there are any areas that are more prone to outages than others, and he said it varies greatly from area to area and from storm to storm. Nonetheless, he said crews will be ready to go as soon as the first drop of ice starts to accumulate.
"We are ready for storms year round. We have people that are working 24-7 every week so if something should happen, if something should hit, we're here and ready to go."
If you want a heads-up to winter weather, stick with the 41 Action Weather team and be sure to download our Storm Shield app for your smartphone or tablet device.