Austin Energy braces for high winds



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Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 7:38 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin Energy crews around the city are preparing for potential problems with high wind gusts on Tuesday.

Last week thousands lost power because of strong winds, and many power lines took a beating. Austin Energy saw its system straining to withstand the winds. Trees hit the lines and dozens of poles weakened under the stress.

Crews have since replaced and repaired most damaged poles, but Ed Clark of AE says some repairs are still underway. Clark said two dozen poles were replaced during last Monday's windstorm, and about 50 have been replaced since then.

Fallen tree limbs are also causing problems across Austin.

"A lot of the limbs fell off the trees and smashed into our roof. Scratched our car door," Elise Krentzel said.

The continued drought has weakened some tree root systems, which is why they could be prone to fall over in high winds.

"The tree root systems are weak. An that's why occasionally when you have a storm like last week, you see these tremendous huge trees that have just toppled over," Clark said.

With another Red Flag Warning in effect, Clark says crews are on watch. Ten crews are scheduled to work on standby Tuesday evening. Clark says when power goes out it can take a while to pinpoint exactly where the problem is on the line.

“If we don't have enough calls, our crews have to literally drive the length of that one to five mile circuit, so to speak, to see where the problem might be,” said Clark.

Every call that comes into the outage report system speeds up the repair time. It allows crews to find the problem faster which further allows them to begin making repairs immediately.

The automated outage reporting system is designed to take on those emergencies. Clark says it can handle up to 5,000 calls at once.

Customers must report outages to 512-322-9100.

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