Crews on alert for potential ice storm
by Anna Oakes
With the National Weather Service forecasting a quarter-inch of ice -- and up to a half-inch along the Blue Ridge -- this Sunday, Blue Ridge Electric crews are preparing for potential widespread power outages.
"We definitely are on high alert," Blue Ridge Electric spokeswoman Renee Whitener said Friday.
A winter storm watch issued by the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Va., Friday morning warns that a cold front moving through the area will bring wintry precipitation in the form of freezing rain and sleet. The watch is in effect for Watauga, Ashe and other northwestern North Carolina counties from 4 a.m. Sunday through 4 a.m. Monday.
The alert states that a quarter-inch of ice accumulation is expected area-wide, with up to a half-inch of ice accumulating along the Blue Ridge. Temperatures will be in the upper 20s to lower 30s throughout the watch period, according to NWS.
"Ice will likely accumulate on trees and power lines, causing power outages," the NWS said. "Roads may also become slick and hazardous."
Whitener said that ice accumulation up to one-tenth of an inch typically does not cause many problems, but "we typically begin to see outages above one-tenth." With ice accumulations above a quarter-inch, "it becomes a severe situation," Whitener said.
Whitener said Blue Ridge Electric crews were busy ensuring that equipment is ready for an ice event, including chainsaws for clearing downed trees and branches and truck chains. Extra staff would be available to answer the phones in case of major outages, she said, and "we have crews from neighboring cooperatives on standby."
"We are preparing -- we're on alert, and we'll be ready to respond if we have outages," she said.
The phone number to report outages to Blue Ridge Electric is 1-800-448-2383. In addition, a map of outages can be found at http://www.blueridgeemc.com, and updates are also posted to the cooperative's Facebook page and Twitter feed.