(WSPA) – In our part of the Southeast, winter weather can mean anything; snow, ice, wind and even severe storms. 

Any of these can lead to power outages. Recovery isn’t always simple. 

Just what is the process utilities go through to get power back on?

Jeannine Bowers, an Area Director for Duke Energy, gets us started.

”They get a phone call that says hey, the power’s out. Then you get a first responder…that’s what we do, we go out there and we assess the damage. There are all kinds of different support services that you might need,” Bowers said. “Do you need the underground guys, do you need the overhead guys, is it poles, what’s the damage. The extent of the damage has a big, big impact as far as how long it’s going to take.” 

Whether that is Duke’s crews or crews assisting from other states during widespread outages, there are plans to follow. 

”If it’s a hospital for a medical facility, we’re going to try to give them first priority. If it’s a large area with a large number of people, we’re going to try to get resources on that as quickly as possible.” 

When working on power recovery after a winter weather event, Duke Energy needs to take care of two things: one, making sure everybody gets back online as quickly as possible, but second, making sure they do it safely.

One of the men with boots on the ground in these situations is Wesley Seaburg, a Resource Specialist for Duke.

”We’ll have a big safety brief. They’ll go over what they’re going to do for the day. And then obviously we get out here to the job site, before we get set up, before any work is ever started, we always go through and do a little pre-job briefing,” according to Seaburg. “And we pick out our designated observers, we pick out all the hazards, we have to get the line blocked before we ever begin work on it. Check all our poles, surrounding poles…it’s a lot.” 

Snow, ice, wind and downed trees slow crews down. 

”We’ve got a rule, if it’s blowing 30 or more miles per hour, we can’t uncradle our buckets. So at that point, that puts a halt on being able to restore power.” 

”Especially up in some of our mountain areas, it gets tough. For one, most of the time there’s hardly any access, it’s all having to be done by hand, manpower. You’re toting poles in, toting transformers in. There’s no bucket work at that time, so everything’s having to be climbed, worked off the pole.” 

Dealing with an extended outage at your house is never pleasant, but keep in mind, crews are working non-stop and it takes a toll on them too. 

”I mean you’re looking at anywhere from 30-80 hours of overtime a week on a rough week.”

“A big part is having a family that will back you. Luckily I’ve got my wife and three kids, and it’s been rough at times, especially on her. It’s hard on them, it’s just hard on us too because that puts more stress on us, here and at home.” 

The crews on the ground, and up the poles, want you to keep something in mind if your power is out. 

”Just be patient. Most of the time these guys are out all hours of the night. No telling how many hours they’ve been working. And I promise you, they’re giving everything they’ve got to try to get the power back on.” 

Whoever supplies your power, be sure to report outages or downed lines. This is important: stay away from downed lines as they might still be energized. 

For Duke Energy, call 1(800) 769-3766 to report an outage. Click here for more outage information.

Some other local providers include:

Blue Ridge Electric Co-Op: call 1(888) 258-3743 to report an outage.

Laurens Electric Co-Op: call 1(866) 973-7867

Greer CPW: 1(864) 848-5500 or on-line through your customer portal

Broad River Electric Co-Op: 1(866) 266-7688

Gaffney Public Works: (864) 488-8800

Not listed here? Check the website of your power provider or check your bill for power outage reporting information.