Utility companies prep for big storm

BALTIMORE – Transformers, voltage regulators, cable, wire and utility poles,

They’re all among the materials area electrical power companies are readying to confront any power outages caused by the anticipated winter storm Wednesday night into Thursday.

“We do expect to see weather-related outages,” says Rachael Lighty, spokeswoman for BGE, Maryland’s largest gas and electric utility with more than 1.2 million electric customers.

At a sprawling warehouse complex on the western fringe of Baltimore, BGE workers loaded materials onto flatbed trucks for delivery to 3 staging locations throughout the utility’s service area. The materials are being put in place so that they can be quickly accessed by out-of-state utility crews that will be summoned to help restore service if there are extensive power outages.

Additional crews in southern, western and northern states have been put on alert.

“It’s very important to be in front of (the storm), in order to reliably and safely restore our customers in a timely manner,” says Jerry Schmidt, BGE manager of materials and logistics.

“We need to be able to accommodate the crews coming in from out of state, not hold them up, we’ve got to get them on the road and working as soon as they possibly can.”

The utility companies are bracing for the worst.

“We are expecting to see heavy wet snow combined with ice,” Lighty says. And high winds in Thursday’s forecast could also contribute to outages and slow any power restoration work.

“Any time we have high wind gusts or sustained winds over 25 miles per hour we are not able to use our bucket trucks,” says Lighty.

Bucket trucks or “cherry pickers” are the hydraulically-operated work platform trucks that are critical to reaching and repairing downed power lines.

When there’s storm damage utility companies first assess any damage before dispatching crews for repairs.

“I think our customers realize we’ll do everything we can to get them back up and running,” says Schmidt.

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