By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia, the combination of trees and bad weather conspire to knock down power lines, but crews and contractors with Appalachian Power are trimming trees to help keep the lights on now and this coming winter.
Crews were working Monday in areas including the Duhring area of Mercer County and along Stadium Drive in Bluefield. Phil Moye, a spokesman for Appalachian Power, said trimming operations are underway throughout the year.
“The hope is that when we do have a storm, that (trimming) will lessen the amount of damage we have and eliminate the times when there is a power outage,” Moye said.
Consumers can expect some power outages during any major storm.
“There is going to be some level of damage and some level of interruptions,” Moye stated. “With tree trimming, we try to eliminate outages due to wind and less severe weather.”
Thousands of households and businesses lost power in July 2012 when a powerful windstorm swept across the eastern United States, toppling trees and power lines. Recent winter storms had a similar impact when wet snow brought trees and power lines down. In these cases, trees from outside the zone trimmed alongside power poles fell and hit lines.
“We just had trees fall from far outside the right of way in both storms,” Moye said.
Appalachian Power now has a pilot program in Virginia for clearing lines from one end of a circuit, a line of high-voltage power lines, from end to end every four years, Moye said. Power lines running through the Rocky Gap, Va., area were one of the lines cleared in that pilot program. The power company plans to conduct another pilot program like it in West Virginia.
“In West Virginia, we’ve submitted a plan to the Public Service Commission to do that with all our power lines,” Moye said.
Contractors for Appalachian Power were working along Stadium Drive.
“Hopefully it will prevent terrible outages when the tree limbs break during windstorms or winter storms,” City Manager Jim Ferguson said of the work. “It’s a terrible inconvenience for citizens and cost AEP a lot of money to send out crews to make repairs. We try to work together to make sure trees are pruned properly, and not cause damage or an eyesore. They’re really an eyesore if they’re not pruned right.”