Electricity, spring thaw don't mix, warns power company

Even though this spring's thaw has been slow in coming, Otter Tail Power Company reminds its customers and neighbors that electricity and water don't mix.

Even though this spring's thaw has been slow in coming, Otter Tail Power Company reminds its customers and neighbors that electricity and water don't mix.

Remember that the spring thaw can cause high water levels that can reduce line clearances, and that increases the potential for accidental contact with electricity. Otter Tail Power Company's Safety Director Eric Hamm urges flood response personnel to be especially alert when their work in flooded areas might put them in contact with energized electrical equipment including overhead lines, transformers, and substations.

Hamm also warns area residents not to go near any flooded areas, including basements, if the water level has reached any part of the electrical system such as electrical outlets or the electrical connections on water heaters, water softeners, heating systems, etc.

Visit and click on Outages/safety and then select Take precautions during spring floods for helpful how-to videos ( ).

Here are some other safety tips for anyone who might be affected by high-water conditions:


Before high waters arrive, stock a supply of bottled drinking water and food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration. Your emergency kit should contain a manual can opener, battery-powered radio and flashlight, and extra batteries, as well as medicines and baby and pet supplies, if applicable. Charge your cell phone and keep the charger with you in case you need to leave your home.

Make sure your sump pump is operational and that the discharge hose isn't frozen or plugged. Pour some water into the sump to see if the pump starts. If it doesn't, check the electrical connections, consult your owner's manual, or call a plumber.

Do not use power tools or other electrical appliances in damp or wet areas.

It's a good idea to have a battery-operated power supply or portable generator to run the sump pump and other critical electrical appliances in case of a power interruption. But remember to disconnect these power supplies if you must evacuate.

Don't connect a portable generator directly to your home's wiring and never plug it into a regular household outlet. Power only essential equipment because overloading your generator can damage appliances and electronics. Use adequately sized power cords to support the electrical load, and make sure your generator is properly grounded. And be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's other instructions for safely operating a portable generator.

Plug basement floor drains, bathtubs, sinks, and toilets in case your basement floods or the power goes out.

If you must evacuate your home or business and don't know how to shut off your main breaker or fuse box, call Otter Tail Power Company's 800-257-4044 customer service number for advice or assistance.

Don't even consider going near a downed power line or near water that's in contact with any electrical component such as a pad-mount transformer or a downed power line.


Don't attempt to operate electrical appliances or equipment that have been submerged in floodwater.

Power can be disconnected in an emergency situation by a public safety official, which may include the mayor, incident commander, or fire chief. "If your home has been without electrical service, either at your request, public safety official order, or due to a flood-related power interruption, electrical codes may require an electrical inspector's wiring certificate before your home can be reenergized," says Hamm. If any customer has questions about how flooding may affect your electrical service, call Otter Tail Power Company's customer service number 800-257-4044.

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