Friday, August 31, 2012

TOP STORY >> Outages reported as storm blows by


Leader staff writers

Electric providers are addressing outages as Tropical Storm Isaac pushes wind and rain through central Arkansas this weekend.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 5,358 customers without power in Pulaski County. Most of those were in North Little Rock.

There were five outages in White County after about three inches of rain fell in the area.

On Thursday, Julie Munsell of Entergy said the company was asked to send people to Louisiana.

“We haven’t dispatched the linemen because we want to know what the needs in Arkansas will be,” she said.

Munsell said Entergy has sent some “scouts” out of state. They assess storm damage but don’t restore service, she explained.

“We know it’s coming. We’ve asked people around the state to come in ready to travel,” she added.

By Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service was predicting one quarter to half an inch more rain for the rest of the day and night, not enough to make Beebe street superintendent Jim Greer think flooding would be a problem.

The much-publicized issues in the Windwood subdivision are too big for his department to tackle, Greer said.

But the dry summer has been an opportunity to get ready for a lot of rain elsewhere in Beebe, he said.

His crews have cleaned ditches and replaced some culverts with box bridges, Greer said.

“We’ve done a lot correcting the problems and even another inch or two of rain won’t hurt,” he said.

In Lonoke County, flooding closed East Shafer Road in Lonoke and Red Wine Road south of Carlisle.

By early Friday afternoon, Eddie Cook, director of operations in Cabot, was calling the hurricane a well-prepared for, non-event in his city.

Cook said the sandbags were filled, the generators were checked to make sure they were running well and street department workers were on standby with heavy equipment if it was needed. Some of those workers reported that they had barely slept Thursday night because they were listening to the wind, he said.

But there was no flooding and the wind only knocked down a couple of limbs that were quickly removed. One traffic light controller went out and had to be replaced but that incident doesn’t appear to have been caused by the weather, he said.

A couple of inches of rain were measured at the city sewer plant but instead of a flood, Cabot got a much-needed, slow rain.

“For a non-event, we were very well-prepared,” Cook said.

That was not the case in southern Lonoke County.

“We’ve sent sandbags to England,” said Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin.

“They had a lot more rain in the southern part of the county than in the north. I don’t know the total, but people were pouring six inches out of their rain gauges,” Erwin said.

In White County, Judge Michael Lincoln said his people were ready for a storm and pleased that they didn’t get one.

“We brought in sand and had extra dispatchers on alert.” Lincoln said. “Of course we had all the chainsaws sharpened in case they were needed. But they weren’t.”

As of Friday afternoon, there was one outage reported in White County and no outages reported in Pulaski County.

Tori Moss, communications coordinator for First Electric Cooperative, said the cooperative has a comprehensive emergency response that includes procedures for major outages.

“We want to make sure we can take care of our members first,” she said.

She said customers could help by reporting an outage. They need to call 1-888-827-3322.

Caller ID will match the phone number to the number listed on their account. That is how First Electric will know where the outage is, Moss said.

She said customers could see current outages at or receive updates from First Electric’s Facebook page.

Moss said the company has not sent any workers outside of the cooperative’s service area.

Kathy Spider of North Little Rock Electric said the business has an ongoing tree-trimming procedure. Fallen limbs and trees are the most common cause of outages during a storm, she explained.

Jill Ponder of the company’s Energy Conservation/Demand Side Management Department, said North Little Rock Electric had not been asked to send workers anywhere Hurricane Isaac made its debut.

She said the company is unique in that it has service crews on duty 24 hours a day.

Ponder said they have asked additional employees to be available during the severe weather.

“We’ll be able to respond. We just made sure the service crews and equipment are ready to go,” she said on Thursday.

Ponder said customers can follow the company on Facebook, Twitter and call 1-888-728-4004 to report an outage.