Utility: Virginia Suffered 6 Major 2012 Weather Events
June 27, 2012
By Peter Bacque, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.
June 27--RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmonders, if you thought your power has been going out a lot lately, you`re right.
Dominion Virginia Power customers have suffered through six major weather events in 2012, and all six of them hit the Richmond region, the utility company says.
"I don`t think there`s any question we`ve had a period of extraordinarily severe weather here in Richmond," said Rodney Blevins, the utility`s vice president of electric distribution operations. "We recognize that ... wears on the patience of our customers."
The capital region "has simply been pounded harder by Mother Nature than the rest of the state," said Dominion Virginia Power spokesman David Botkins. "That`s the reason for more frequent power outages in the first six months of the year."
As of 11 p.m., about 15,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers remained without electric service, down from 192,000 outages caused by the violent storms Monday. Almost all of those customers were in the hard-hit Richmond and Tri-Cities areas.
"We`re still looking at having nearly everybody restored by Wednesday evening," said company spokesman Richard Zuercher, though some customers in areas with severe damage "may go a little longer."
When they would get their power back was on the minds of people driving by a Dominion Virginia Power crew rebuilding a 34,500-volt line at Sadler Road and Thorncroft Drive in western Henrico County on Tuesday.
One after another the neighborhood`s customers stopped to ask the linemen the company brought in from Northern Virginia when they could expect their power would be flowing again.
Harold Atkinson braked to a halt on his way to the landfill with a trailer full of tree limbs. Dominion Virginia Power`s Kenny Wilkins assured him his power would be on "by the time you get back from the dump."
"All I need," Atkinson said, "is air conditioning and a shower."
The company crew had worked until 2 a.m. Tuesday in Northern Virginia, Wilkins said, then was back on duty at 5 a.m., dispatched by computers in trucks to drive directly to the Henrico jobsite. "We`re going to work till eightish," the former Marine sergeant said.
"God bless you!" a woman in van shouted to the linemen as she drove by.
The storm inspired an all-hands-on-deck response for Dominion Virginia Power, the state`s largest electric company with 2.3 million customers.
"We all have a storm role," said Alison Kaufmann, who normally works as a project manager in the Richmond-based company`s advanced metering department. Her storm position is as a driver for employees doing damage assessments and helping out with response logistics.
"It`s my time to contribute to what our product really is, delivering power," Kaufmann said. "We`re going to make it happen."
Long outages are not in the company`s interest, Blevins said. A regulated utility business, Dominion Virginia Power doesn`t make money when the power is out.
"And we don`t make good will either," he said. "We recognize that we provide a vital service to the public."
Knocking down power poles and electric wires and damaging transformers, the destructive storm`s 60-100-mph winds produced more than 2,000 separate work locations for Dominion Virginia Power in central Virginia, Botkins said.
"The total (damage) inventory and cost is still being tallied," he said.
Dominion Virginia Power put 1,700 company workers and support personnel to work restoring electric service, as well as 235 workers borrowed from other utilities, Blevins said.
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative restored power Tuesday night to the 2,600 customers knocked out of service in the storm. Most of the service interruptions were in the not-for-profit co-op`s Hanover County service territory.
"Almost all our linemen worked all night long," said Ann Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Fredericksburg-based power provider. "We just kept finding more damage."
With more than 151,000 member-customers, Rappahannock Electric is the state`s third-largest electric utility.
But "when Mother Nature has wind gusts of 60 miles an hour," Lewis said, "it`s a little out of our control."
(c)2012 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)
Story Image: Storm clouds roll over the Dam Neck area of Virginia Beach, Va., on Monday, June 25, 2012. The National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm capable of producing golf-ball-size hail and winds in excess of 70 miles per hour is making its way through the Hampton Roads area. (AP Photo/Virginian-Pilot, L. Todd Spencer)
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