LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Entergy Corp. said Thursday that the four-state utility stores all its extra support line structures in Arkansas because the state’s severe weather makes it the place they are most often needed.
Last January’s ice storm in north Arkansas left about 250 poles or other supporting structures for utility lines on the ground, along with about 26 miles of downed lines, Entergy said as it demonstrated elements of its emergency plan for restoring power in the wake of severe weather.
Pictures from the January storm showed long stretches of major distribution lines downed in a lake. Others fell in areas so rugged that Entergy had to bulldoze new dirt roads so workers could bring in equipment to replace the supports and restring the lines, said LeNoel Hartwick, grid manager for Entergy Arkansas.
To speed the process, the utility uses helicopters to ferry equipment or to raise new lines to speed the process, he said.
"When these big transmission lines go down, that’s when trouble starts," Entergy spokesman James Thompson said.
Utilities can sometimes reroute power temporarily to restore electricity to homes affected by a major outage, but in some cases customers have to wait for the main lines to be fixed.
In back-to-back ice storms in December 2000 — the worst in recorded Arkansas history — more than 300,000 homes and businesses were without power after each storm.
Allen East, manager of Entergy Arkansas’ utility operations, said the utility sends crews to areas likely to be affected based on the weather forecast.
"It’s very expensive for us. It’s a small army," East said.
But he said that’s better than not being able to get the workers and equipment in after the storm hits.
The utility draws crews from its state divisions and has mutual aid agreements with other utilities.
Entergy said there are two ways its customers can get outage information without calling an Entergy office.
Customers can send a text to 368374 with the word "out," and they will receive text updates on when power is expected to be restored. Customers will be asked to text their ZIP code and account number.
Entergy also devotes a portion of its website to storm response.
Entergy provides electricity in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. It has 2.7 million customers, 687,000 of them across 63 of Arkansas’ 75 counties.
Entergy’s storm center: http://www.entergystormcenter.com