Be prepared for ice storms and prolonged outages

Posted on Jan 07 2023 in Marshall County REMC
Dave Lewallen
Dave Lewallen

Blasts of winter wind, precipitation and fluctuating temperatures can result in severe freezing rain, sleet, snow and ice storms. 

A heavy build-up of ice on power lines can cause wires to snap and utility poles to topple. Falling ice-laden trees or limbs can bring down power lines, cause outages, and threaten life and property.

Marshall County REMC stresses the importance of being prepared for these potentially dangerous storms and the power outages they may cause. Having the right supplies and knowing how to stay warm safely are keys to weathering a winter storm emergency.

“Severe damage to power lines and transmission systems may take days to repair,” said Dave Lewallen, CEO of Marshall County REMC. “In a winter storm emergency, restoring power and heat to consumers is the highest priority, and electric utility crews work around the clock to restore service.”

Typically, there is ample warning of an approaching winter storm system and most know to stay off roads and seek shelter. But Lewallen stresses that everyone, particularly families with special needs, must be prepared and know what to do in case of winter emergencies and long-term power outages:

  • Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights and a supply of fresh batteries readily available.
  • Know where to find extra blankets.
  • Fill spare containers with water for washing, and keep a supply of bottled drinking water on hand.
  • Keep a supply of foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration, along with a can opener, on hand.
  • Switch off lights and appliances to prevent overloading circuits and damaging appliances when power is restored. Leave one lamp or switch on to signal when your power returns.
  • To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so water drips from the tap (only for homes without a water well).

“Never use a charcoal grill to cook or heat inside the home,” Lewallen emphasized. “It gives off deadly carbon monoxide gas. Grills should be used only outdoors.”

It’s a good idea to assemble a disaster supply kit ahead of time that includes needed items. Don’t forget to include a first aid kit, prescription medicines and special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members. If you have a medical need requiring electricity, don’t rely on the utility, instead have a backup plan.

If you use a standby generator, make sure it has a transfer safety switch or that your power is cut off at the breaker box before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines or what’s known as “back feed.” Back feed creates danger for anyone near lines, particularly crews working to restore power. Marshall County REMC strongly recommends that if you are considering installing an electric generator at your home or office, you should consult with your utility. Also, all generators should be installed by a licensed electrician to ensure safety for both you and crews working on lines. 

Lastly, treat all downed and hanging lines as if they are energized electric lines. Stay away, warn others to stay away and immediately contact your utility.