Worst still on the way for area

Published 5:41 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moderate power outages had been reported across Lincoln County as of Wednesday morning, but officials are preparing for much worse.

     Magnolia Electric Power Association reported the most outages in Lincoln County, with 375 meters without power as of mid-morning Wednesday. System-wide, Magnolia’s power outages numbered 1,191, said Magnolia spokesperson Lucy Shell.

     Magnolia’s Pike County Gillsburg circuit lost power about 2:12 a.m. Wednesday due to a fallen tree, was repaired and was subsequently knocked out a second time by a fallen pole, Shell said.

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     Entergy had no area customers without power Wednesday morning, and Southwest Electric had only two meters out. System-wide, Southwest Electric had 200 outages Wednesday morning, said Public Relations Director Azalea Knight.

     “We’re doing real good,” Knight said. “All the outages we have right now are being covered. We are as ready as we can be.”

     Entergy did have 30 to 40 customers that lost power late Tuesday afternoon, but all outages have been repaired, said Entergy spokesperson Kenny Goza.

     Tuesday’s outages were due to falling branches and a downed tree, said Goza.

     All energy company representatives said more outages were expected later Wednesday afternoon as increasingly severe weather moves in. Local Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said Wednesday morning that he expected the winds and rains to gradually become more severe throughout the day.

     “The rain is on top of us now, and the wind is picking up,” Galey said. “I think the worst for us, wind wise and tornado wise, will be sometime after lunch today and until 2 or 3 o’clock Thursday.”

     Wednesday morning predictions still estimated Lincoln County could see sustained winds of 45 to 50 miles per hour with gusts of 60 to 65 miles per hour.

     Rainfall estimates anticipated 8 to 15 inches of rainfall.

     At a briefing for local authorities Tuesday, Goza warned that if winds get above about 35 miles per hour, work crews would be pulled until the winds subsided.

     “If the winds stay sustained at 30 to 35 miles per hour, we can’t get a bucket in the air,” Goza said.

     Goza warned that as power outages begin to mount, storm conditions would probably prevent energy companies from restoring power as quickly as some residents would like.

     Goza also warned residents that incorrectly hooking up a generator can be very dangerous for power crews. Generators should not be feeding back into power lines, and there is typically a switch on the generator to prevent this, officials said.

     In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, crews went to cut down lines that were supposed to be dead, only to discover that some generators were feeding back into the lines, Goza said.

     “When they started cutting, it started sparking,” Goza said.

     Beyond power outages, Galey warned officials Tuesday to expect widespread damage.

     “I expect the trees to fall and the roads to be blocked,” Galey said. “All I can tell you is be ready. It’s coming.”