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Overnight Rain Causes Dozens Of Austin Energy Power Pole Fires
Around 50 power poles on fire, 75 areas filled with repair crews, and 10,000 to 15,000 Austin Energy customers without power, all because some light rain overnight created what the utility’s officials called “the perfect storm”.
"We probably had a record number of these pole fires," said Ed Clark, Austin Energy spokesperson.
Clark says at least 16 Austin Energy crews worked into the morning repairing the damage left behind. When asked if the utility was caught off guard by the weather, Clark replied, “The system is in good shape, but this is a situation you can't control."
Clark blames the overnight mist with mixing with dirt and dust on the poles after months of drought.
"It's just enough water to goo up that months of build-up of dirt and dust so that it tracks over a device and power has a pathway, goes over the pole and creates this problem. There's not a way really to prepare for this."
Clark says the best the utility can do is what officials did last night: watch the weather report and put crews on standby. Clark says there are only two possible other options: go one-by-one to each of AE’s 140,000 poles with a water hose and spray off the buildup, or put on three to seven covers per pole over the devices that caught fire.
"It's not a practical way to address something that might occur in this case once every five, six, seven, eight, ten years."
Clark says their best bet for prevention lies with Mother Nature.
"If it had rained really hard last night, this would not have happened."
An Oncor spokesperson told us about 2,000 of the utility’s customers in Round Rock and Plugerville lost power, most for no more than an hour. Oncor also delt with one pole fire.
By Adam Bennett