Kanawha County community frustrated by power outages - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Kanawha County community frustrated by power outages

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A year ago a Derecho storm knocked out power to people all across West Virginia. In the wake of that storm there were long term power outages. Some residents went to the West Virginia Public Service Commission to ask that electric companies be required to do more in terms of prevention.

One of those people was Joyce Pauley from Kanawha County. She lives along Long Branch Road in the Davis Creek area. She said in the last year the problems have gone from bad to worse. Many of her neighbors share similar concerns.

"It is frustrating," said Josh Akers, who also lives in the community. "I can understand it going out every once in a while. But as much as it does, it is way too much."

Pauley joined others from across West Virginia as part of a general investigation following the Derecho. The result of that investigation was, among other recommendations, an order for all electric utilities operating in West Virginia to submit a detailed plan to trim vegetation and maintain right of ways. The deadline for utilities to submit those plans is July 23rd.

"You get paid to furnish me with electricity. Furnish me with it," Pauley said.

But she said since she filed that complaint not much has changed. She said to her it seems like the power is going out more now than ever. The most recent outage was Monday night.  "They've caused me to be afraid to go to the grocery store and purchase groceries, so I go every couple days."

West Virginia Public Service Commission Spokesperson Susan Small said vegetation trimming and right of way proposals from the electric utilities must cover all distribution and transmission lines on and end-to-end time-based cycle based on the utility's specific operational and reliability targets. They also have to indicate how they will work with other entities providing services in the area and how they plan to recover the costs.

"They say it is an act of God. This is not an act of God. It is an act of man not doing his job," Pauley said.

Residents in the community are also frustrated because they don't have access to public water. They said they have waited for years to get help. Because they depend on wells for water service they said every time the power goes out, they also lose access to water.

Appalachian Power spokesperson Phil Moye said the company is looking in the area to see what can be done to improve reliability. Adding that when they see outages occurring in areas like along Long Branch Road they have employees look for things that can be done to improve the situation.

Relating to the outage Monday night Moye said, "A dead tree fell from a hillside across the road and across our line.  After heavy rains last night we responded to several outages such as this, in which trees fell from outside the right-of-way we maintain.  It is our experience that trees are more likely to uproot and fall when the ground is highly saturated with moisture."  

On a broader level he said following last year's derecho the company proposed to move to a cycle-based maintenance program in which each of their distribution circuits is trimmed every four years. While such an approach can't prevent damage from major storms such as Superstorm Sandy or the derecho Moye said it can help during the more typical wind and thunder storms. 

As for the water, Laura Jordan with West Virginia American Water said they'd need 35,000 feet of pipe to serve about 95 residents in that area. The project would cost about $1,984,000. She says customers should continue to contact the Kanawha County Regional Development Authority for help. 

The Kanawha County Planning Commission said extending public water service to a community is a joint effort with the water company. They estimated close to 100 projects are usually on the request list at any given time. Projects selected are chosen based on the need, the number of customers that will be served and the cost. There is no timeline available now for when that community will get public water.