INDIANAPOLIS - Line repair crews from Indianapolis Power and Light, as well as Cincinnati and Dayton hope to have most power outages caused by Saturday’s strong winds repaired by midnight, with full restoration expected Tuesday.
“All we can say is we apologize,” said IPL Director of Engineering, Mike Holtsclaw. “Our crews are working as quickly and as safely as they can.”
IPL says strong sustained winds and gusts around 50 and 60 miles per hour knocked out power to roughly 55,000 customers Saturday afternoon and evening. Holtsclaw called it the worst widespread outage due to a wind-only event since 1982.
Holtsclaw says the utility began calling mutual assistance partners for backup early Saturday when the forecast was calling for strong winds, but the normal response was not available.
“We’ve been challenged a little bit, in that a lot of the resources we would normally be able to get are currently in Georgia and Florida and the Carolinas because of the hurricane,” he said.
By Monday morning, Holtsclaw said line crews had restored power to about 92-percent of those who had lost electricity in the wind storm. By Monday afternoon, outage numbers had dropped below 3,000 customers affected.
One of those still without power on Monday was east side resident, Brian Stone. He and 16 neighbors on East 52nd Street spent most of Monday wondering when their lights and heat would come back on.
“It was 58 degrees in here,” Stone said. “And it could still be that right now.”
Stone said he was able to cook breakfast on a wood stove in his garage, and was keeping as much food has he could fit in an ice-filled cooler. He still had to visit a neighbor’s house to make coffee and charge cell phones. And he and his wife were having to eat out more than their budget allows for.
“It’s not money that we have,” Stone said. “I’m on disability and I get a check once a month.”
Stone said he was particularly frustrated when an IPL supervisor told him on the phone that repair crews were focusing on larger outage areas, and would get to his street when they could.
Holtsclaw said IPL spends millions of dollars a year on regular maintenance, trimming tree branches that threaten power lines in neighborhoods. However, Saturday’s strong winds knocked down many large trees that had been killed or weakened by the Emerald Ash Borer. The result was small, widespread outages across the city.
“Normally we’ll only see maybe 100 type incidents where it’s 5 or less customers,” Holtsclaw said. “This storm has nearly 300.”
Holtsclaw said IPL hopes to restore power to those who lost it Saturday by Midnight, Tuesday morning. He also said IPL continues to research ways to make Indianapolis power infrastructure less vulnerable to wind damage.
“We’ve been looking at what the Florida utilities have done the last few years from the hurricane and how they storm-harden their system,” he said. “And looking at some of those things to change some of our construction practices to see if that can help.