Energy companies detail power outage plans

June 29, 2010 5:07:25 PM PDT
Any time a storm is brewing in the Gulf, it brings back bad memories of power outages. A lot of work has been done to improve the grid since Hurricane Ike hit two years ago, but will it be enough to keep the lights on if another storm heads our way?

The answer is maybe. A lot depends on the how powerful the storm is.

CenterPoint Energy has done quite a bit to improve things, but that does not mean you do not have to prepare for power outages.

The last time a hurricane hit east Houston, it knocked out power for weeks.

"It was too hot," said Mirna Dominguez, who had to live without power. "The windows were open; we were like panicking and complaining the whole time."

Dominguez says she and her neighbors in the Cloverleaf subdivision waited and waited and waited for the power to come back on after Hurricane Ike.

To restore electricity, CenterPoint had to fix downed lines and replace broken utility poles.

The work done to reconnect Cloverleaf after Ike happened all over the area. CenterPoint says the repair work done since Ike hit in 2008 could help to prevent similar widespread outages whenever the next hurricane rolls through the Houston area in the future.

"We have a hazard tree removal program; we went around, and if people identified trees that looked like they could be a problem, and we went through and exercised and removed them because if you look at a lot of the damage that happened during Ike, a lot of it was driven by trees coming down," said CenterPoint's Scott Prochazka.

Prochazka adds the company replaced 8,000 fallen utility poles after Ike.

Even so, officials say everyone should be prepared to live without power for up to two weeks, maybe even longer if a powerful storm makes landfall near the Houston area.

"You got to have your own plan," Prochazka said. "You have to have a plan to be without power for a period of time, and we are doing what we can to bring this thing up faster."

Some folks already have gone to local stores to pick up hurricane supplies, and even generators are flying off store shelves.

Entergy also has an ongoing tree trimming effort. Spending millions to cut back limbs and trees, they also replaced many of those downed power poles near the coast with storm hardened poles to give them a better chance of staying in place if another storm hits.


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