Focus remains on clean-up following Monday’s storm

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June 27th, 2013

Omaha, NE – Mick Carlin and his white Ford Ranger had just joined the ranks of dozens of SUV’s, trucks, and tractors lined-up along the gravel road leading into Omaha’s Tranquility Park. Their mission? To unload hundreds of fallen tree limbs and branches.

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“They make things quick and easy here, but there’s still alot to unload,” said Carlin as he opened the truck’s tailgate and began removing branches.

Last Monday morning, wind gusts nearing 70 MPH blew through the metro area, resulting in downed tree limbs and power lines across Douglas County. By early afternoon, over 52,000 Omaha Public Power District customers were left without power. Carlin was no exception.

He’s counted himself lucky, however, and said this storm was nothing compared to the inconvenience brought on by another in not-so-recent memory.

“I lived through the power outage of October of (1997) or whenever it was and that was about 20 degrees then,” said Carlin. “This is a lot easier. I can do without air conditioning but when it’s really cold itself… A fire place doesn’t keep a room warm.”

And Carlin hasn’t been the only one putting things into perspective. In fact, the October 1997 snowstorm helped write the rulebook for some. Just ask Mike Jones, Senior Media Specialist for OPPD.

“That’s the benchmark for everything that we do now,” explained Jones.

“What it did was, it told us that we need to be better prepared to handle sudden storms, when they occur. Whether they’re wind storms, tornado storms, snow storms, whatever.”

The result was an emergency response plan that has now become standard protocol for OPPD. Jones said that plan is put into practice at least twice a year in the form of drills.

Since last Monday, the plan has been put into action.

Of course, the most pivotal part of the plan has been restoring power to as many OPPD customers as soon as possible. But, as Jones explained, that relies heavily on the customer’s location.

“We look at what’s it going to take to get the most people back on in the shortest period of time,” said Jones. “For instance, you may have a whole circuit out which includes a whole area. We’ll try to get that problem corrected first where you can get 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 customers back at once- as opposed to individual outages where you’re getting one, two, three people along the line”

Jones said the utility company hopes to have all power restored by late, Wednesday evening. In the meantime, residents can drop off tree debris at Tranquility Park on 120th and Maple and at 11th and Locust. Both locations will accept tree debris till 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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