EDITORIAL: Safer, but still at risk [St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.]St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Dec. 12--To hear our utilities tell it, we're much better prepared for the next big ice storm that visits Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri. But safer does not mean we are without risk.
In fact, the risks are substantial for anyone who thinks they will take on winter in these parts without some preparation and a plan. Just ask those who were caught off guard and feared for their families' well-being during the extended power outages that came with the Ice Storm of 2007.
It was five years ago this week that tens of thousands of residents, both urban and rural, huddled in the darkness of their homes around fireplaces or other makeshift sources of heat, trying with limited success to ward off the worst of winter's fury. For many this went on for days.
The streets and roads were treacherous. Downed power lines made even walking through your neighborhood dangerous. Falling branches and trees periodically pulled down a live wire, creating sparks and a crackling sound -- unwelcome "fireworks" many residents still recall with clarity.
This can happen again, unfortunately. And if not inch-thick ice accumulations, then the half-inch variety that wreaked lesser havoc the following year.
We're glad our regional utilities, including Kansas City Power & Light and United Electric Cooperative, study past storms and try to learn from them. Beyond this, we commend KCP&L for winning an industry award -- for the sixth straight year -- recognizing it as the most reliable electric provider in the central plains region. KCP&L took over operation of the local electric utility from Aquila after the 2007 storm.
KCP&L stresses it has put high value on maintaining and improving its electricity transmission infrastructure. The utility also uses computer technology to predict where storms will strike and with what severity. And it says it has been diligent about the day-to-day chores of inspecting lines and trimming trees that encroach.
This last point is an important reminder for homeowners: The weakest link in your protection against another prolonged power outage could be in your backyard.
It's your responsibility, not the utility's, to ensure the line leading from the utility's power pole to your residence is unencumbered by tree branches or anything else that can contribute to it coming down in a storm.
(c)2012 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)
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