Storm-toppled trees keep REA crews busyPouring rain, howling wind and crashing thunder are not the only products of thunder storms.
By: By Marit Aaseng, Intern Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
Pouring rain, howling wind and crashing thunder are not the only products of thunder storms.
Power outages are another common side effect of bad weather. Frequently, the causes of such disturbances are trees.
Runestone Electric Association (REA) is trying to reduce these power interruptions through an extensive maintenance program. This year that program focused primarily on Spruce Hill, Miltona, Leaf Valley, Ida, Carlos and Belle River townships.
REA trimmed and removed trees as well as mowed and sprayed under its 2,926 miles of distribution lines with the objective of ensuring dependability and safety for their customers. The investment in this program is more than $600,000 for the year.
“Our goal is to cover the entire system on a 10 year rotation,” said Al Haman, the manager of operations and engineering at REA. “Our first purpose is safety. Our second consideration is reliability of power.”
Tree clearing has been an integral part of REA’s business since the raising of its very first overhead power line. In the past, however, tree maintenance was more reactive than proactive.
Jim Hultman, staff assistant at REA, related the story of a farmer many years ago that stopped by the office to tell the company that his power had been off since the previous Thursday. He wondered if they could perhaps look into it, if anyone was ever out that way.
“Now if the power goes off for one second, our phone lines light up instantly,” Hultman said. “We have to keep up with the times. With technology today, tolerance for electrical outages has decreased.”
Power outages or “blinks” to electrical service, occur many times when trees touch or fall on power lines. Seventy-five outages in 2009 were a result of trees. Proactive right-of-way maintenance prevents outages like these in the long term, besides ensuring safety.
The National Electrical Safety Code requires proper tree clearance in the utility easement. Not only does this provide access for utility workers, but it also reduces the risk of lengthy power outages during storms.
A crew of tree cutting contractors, Carr’s Tree Service out of Ottertail, works year round to do tree maintenance for REA. Prior to trimming or cutting they always contact and receive permission from the landowner.
REA asks that its members contact them if any potentially hazardous trees are noticed, and to follow these precautions when planting trees or shrubs:
Do not plant anything directly under power lines.
Before planting, consider the height potential of the tree.
A minimum clearance of 10 feet at the top of the wire and 20 feet from each side of the pole on the ground is necessary.
Keep shrubs at least three feet away from the sides and back of pad-mount transformers.
Keep the transformer’s access door completely unobstructed.
Ensure power lines are not near to children when climbing trees, or building forts. “Look up and live.”
Never assume a power line is dead. Respect lines, especially if they are down.