Ice storm taught lessons


First Posted: 12/30/2014

LIMA — An ice storm 10 years ago proved a learning experience for some local agencies, and proof of proper preparedness for others.

The ice storm of 2005 left more than 75,000 residents without power for several days, killed four people and devastated the city and county.

Looking back, Russ Decker, director of the Allen County Emergency Management Agency, said the neat thing about the storm was Allen County’s actions after it.

“When it was over, the first thing everybody wanted to do was get together and figure out what we can do” better next time, he said.

The results left more municipalities and county agencies ready in case there is a repeat of 2005’s disaster.

PREPARING FOR NEXT TIME

One good aspect of the otherwise debilitating storm may be that the city is more prepared for a similar event than it was in 2005.

Lima Mayor David Berger thinks the city is more prepared mainly because of some changes American Electric Power, whose customers had the largest losses, made after the storm.

“AEP came in with a very aggressive approach to trimming trees,” he said. “As a result … I think we’ve had a more reliable electric service because the power company continues to trim trees back from cables.”

The company started the tree clearance process in 2008, according to spokeswoman Vikki Michalski, who said the company didn’t make any changes to its process right after the storm.

Trees “are a big cause of power outages in any weather event,” she said.

Ice can gather on trees and weigh branches down so they touch power lines, knocking power out.

The company has looked at the best way to keep a tree clear from the line for the longest amount of time, Michalski said. It now uses a four-year cycle of clearance and clears every line it has access to, which make up more than 31,000 distribution miles, she said.

ACCESS TO POWER

With power out across the county, it became clear just how important electricity is.

“I think probably the biggest thing was it really demonstrated to us the reliance certain facilities had on electrical power,” Decker said.

The storm made county officials realize the importance of generators. In the past 10 years the EMA has worked with municipalities and jurisdictions to get grants and other monies to purchase generators.

“Without going for grants they probably wouldn’t have those generators,” Decker said.

The lack of generators and power “hampered the way” some municipalities and agencies could respond.

FUELING HELP

But that wasn’t the only barrier to police stations, hospitals and other emergency responders during the storm.

In the week after the storm, lack of fuel for generators was an issue as well.

Decker reached out to the state’s EMA and asked for some additional fuel, which it sent. However, he said it’s better to use the county’s resources, as it frees up the state’s for other counties and also makes quick access easier.

After the storm, the county signed an agreement with Husky Lima Refinery to get its generator fuel, Decker said. At the time, it was the first agreement of its kind in the state, he said.

“If we lose power, we can access diesel and gasoline products directly from the refinery,” he said. “We know we have access to a supply to keep those generators running.”

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