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Electrical problems a cold reality

Doesn't anyone burn coal any more?
a cold reality
117 McDowell County residents caught off guard when lights go out
By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph The Bluefield Daily Telegraph Tue Oct 05, 2010, 05:01 AM EDT

NORTHFORK — Residents in one small McDowell County community are asking for an explanation from Appalachian Power after going 18 hours without electricity during an unseasonably cold night and morning.Residents in one small McDowell County community are asking for an explanation from Appalachian Power after going 18 hours without electricity during an unseasonably cold night and morning.

About 117 individuals living along Northfork Hollow lost their power at 7:10 p.m. Sunday, and the service wasn’t restored until 12:30 p.m. Monday. Many in the community were caught off guard by the cold weather and the power outage.

“To be honest with you, I doubt anybody had any back-up heat,” Tim Hairston, who was busy Monday checking on several of his neighbors without heat, said. “It caught them off guard. And being a Sunday night, you couldn’t really go out and buy anything.”

Hairston said the community has lost electricity 11 to 12 times this year. He is hoping the state Public Service Commission will investigate the excessive outages.

“I told them we are facing another winter, and we need to get this addressed immediately,” Hairston said. “We do have a lot of elderly people living in this area.”

Phil Moye, a spokesman for Appalachian Power, said a tree made contact with a wire, and caused the wire to come down, somewhere between Switchback and Northfork. Moye said the outage impacted 117 customers.

“There had been a few outages in that area earlier this year, mostly through tree contact,” Moye said. “Trees are the number one cause of outages for us. We serve a very rural area, densely forested and mountainous region, and so trees are the number one problem we deal with. We maintain our right of ways but sometimes trees fall from outside the area we are allowed to maintain.”

With winter weather approaching, Moye said area residents should take steps to prepare for possible outages.

“In terms of preparedness for a power outage, you should always have candles, flash lights with batteries, and a supply of non-perishable foods and water,” Moye said. “An alternative heating source is a good idea particularly in areas that are more rural in nature that when there is an outage there is often more tree contact and more of a likelihood that it will take a lot of work to get the customer back on.”

Moye said it is important for families to make sure their alternative heating source is safe.

“If you are using a fireplace, or a kerosene heater or something like that, you want to make sure you have fuel for it and it is maintained and operated safely,” Moye said. “And that is also true for generators. As prices for generators have come down over the years, more people have purchased them.”