The recent spate of snowstorms and low temperatures may be trying times for residents of the Eastern Panhandle and Maryland, but major power outages were avoided because of continuing efforts by Potomac Edison. The power company serves nearly 400,000 customers.
“We had 70 or so outages, but no one is without power now,” said company spokesman Chris Eck.
The horror stories of power outages in Texas and other parts of the country didn’t take place here for a variety of reasons.
“We have our own meteorologist who checks the weather maps and knows what’s coming. We know what crews will be needed and hit the ground running,” Eck said.
Another practice has been taking place for the past five to ten years. Residents may notice that trees near power lines take on a rather strange appearance as if they have had bites taken out of them. They may not be pretty, but they look that way for a good reason. Tree pruning by Potomac Edison crews helps make sure power continues to get where it should.
“We have 40 percent fewer outages because of the directional tree trimming program,” Eck said. “The majority of power outages are caused by tree branches and trees that fall on the power lines during severe weather. It’s best to keep up with the trimming to make improvements to the system.”
Last year, the company’s $34 million vegetation management program took care of trees along 3,000 miles of power lines. The work takes place every five years around distribution lines and every four years around transmission areas. In addition, maintaining proper clearance around electrical equipment can help reduce the frequency and duration of power outages. Municipalities are notified before the work takes place.
According to a company release vegetation is inspected, and trees are pruned in a manner that helps preserve the health of the tree while also maintaining safety near electric facilities. In some cases, trees that are considered to present a danger or are diseased may be removed. Clearing incompatible vegetation under power lines results in easier access for company personnel to inspect and maintain lines and make repairs sooner if an outage occurs.
A more aggressive approach to tree trimming followed events in the summer of 2012 when a derecho, a series of powerful storms, hit the area all in one night. More than 300,000 homes in areas served by First Energy, the parent company of Potomac Edison, were without power.
Despite the success of the tree pruning program, Eck said some people may take umbrage with the appearance of trees after they been trimmed.
“They may think they look ugly. A family member of mine said his tree now had a V shape. At least he still has a tree,” Eck said.