Wednesday, January 02, 2013

TOP STORY >> Power back for almost everyone


Leader staff writers

Electricity is back on for almost everyone in the area after thousands of people were without power when nearly a foot of snow and some ice felled hundreds of trees and branches last week.

There were fewer than a dozen local Entergy and First Electric Cooperative customers still in the dark Tuesday.

There were 15,212 members of First Electric Cooperative’s Jacksonville District in the dark sometime between Christmas and Monday, communications coordinator Tori Moss said. Power was restored to most of them by Monday, she added.

The Jacksonville district of 40,000 members includes northern Pulaski, Lonoke, White, Prairie and Faulkner counties. The district includes parts of Jacksonville, Cabot and Sherwood.

There were still a few isolated outages on Monday, Moss said, referring The Leader to a map on the cooperative’s website for more details. But, according to the First Electric map, none of the customers in The Leader’s coverage area were in the dark Tuesday.

First Electric received assistance with restoring power from 27 in-state independent contractors. Thirty-four First Electric employees repaired lines in the Jacksonville district.

Julie Munsell, spokeswoman for Entergy, said Tues-day afternoon “virtually all” storm-related outages had been repaired. There were 287 customers statewide without power, but they were new outages unrelated to the Christmas Day snow and ice, she said.

Munsell explained that one or two customers still may not have power because the storm damaged their homes in a way that prevents them from connecting to an energized line.

According to the utility’s online map, five customers in Jacksonville, four customers in Searcy and two customers near Carlisle were still in the dark Tuesday afternoon.

All power was restored to North Little Rock Electric customers in North Little Rock and Sherwood as of 5 p.m. Sunday, according to spokeswoman Jill Ponders. About 18,000 of the utility’s customers lost power last week.

North Little Rock Electric had 60 to 80 additional workers helping with repairs, Ponders said. That number includes North Little Rock Electric employees and out-of-state crews from Texas.

Entergy’s outages peaked at 194,000 the day after Christmas. Munsell said most of them were in Malvern and Little Rock, which sustained the most damage.

“The damage includes poles and lines down, but is largely due to debris, (like) falling limbs and trees,” she added.

Munsell said the utility plans year-round for storms. and “vegetation management” is part of that planning. Munsell said Entergy spends between $18 million and $20 million annually on vegetation management.


People without power last week had a few options, and one of those was to seek shelter at a local warming center.

Part of the Jacksonville Community Center was turned into an emergency warming center for residents seeking relief from the freezing temperatures.

Jacksonville Parks and Recreation assistant director Kevin House said the warming center had 47 people during its peak on Thursday night. By Saturday night that number had dwindled down to 13, and the center was shut down on Monday.

House said the parks department’s staff stayed overnight to make sure the warming center ran smoothly. He thanked employees Von Alexander, Brad Ruple, Lauren Allbriton, Landon Nolen and Dave Gayles.

House said, “That group’s been a life saver here.”

Many people stopped by the center to warm up a few hours, have a hot meal and charge up their cell phones and laptops. Showers were available.

House estimated 100 different families used the center last week. He said a lot of residents and churches wanted to help.

Little Rock Air Force Base provided 50 cots. Assisting with meals were Wendy’s in Jacksonville, Olive Garden in west Little Rock, First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville and Gospel Worship Center of Jacksonville.

The American Red Cross assisted with food and blankets and offered to staff the warming center, which was set up for dining, TV watching and sleeping. Youngsters burned off energy playing basketball.

La Deitra Brown of Dallas was visiting her sister, Kesha Kirk. Brown said, “It helped us out a lot, getting out of the cold.”

Kirk said they had a hot meal there instead of cold pizza at home. She was told her power would be restored by Tuesday.

Chanice Kirk said, “The staff is very nice and helpful.”

Mayor Gary Fletcher said people were calling 911, but, “it was the Red Cross website and Code Red that got the word out for the warming center.”

The mayor suggested residents sign up for Code Red, a free subscription service that provides warnings, messages and alerts through phone calls or text messages. To sign up, fill out the form at