Report issued about utilities' in storm work

Saturday, June 15, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State regulators praised utility companies' response to a January ice storm in Kansas City that left thousands without power, but said in a report issued Friday that there is room for improvement.

After a review of the storm response, the Public Service Commission said in a report that utilities did the best that they could.

"Our review concludes the companies generally performed well under the circumstances," said Warren Wood, manager of the PSC's energy department.

Still, regulators said there were several lessons learned.


Recommendations for improvements include updating contact lists and telephone numbers with cities and local agencies, providing feedback on automated telephone systems to ensure information is received and ensuring that medical-needs customers understand power restoration programs.

"Utility companies affected by this ice storm need to work to enhance their communications with affected customers and city officials," said Jim Ketter, senior PSC staff engineer.

The storm, the worst in Kansas City history, swept across Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, knocked out power to about a million homes and caused tens of millions of dollars of damage.

Work crews from 16 states came to Missouri to help restore power in the Kansas City area. Gov. Bob Holden declared a state of emergency and the federal government approved disaster declarations.

The PSC report said many power customers were frustrated by the lack of information about when their service would be restored.

Trees damaged

The ice also damaged about two-thirds of the trees in a 40-mile wide swath across three states.

The PSC report was critical of preventive tree-trimming efforts.

"Intuitively, the closer the limbs, the more likely a weighted limb would cause damage," the report said. "Efforts should be made to keep on needed trimming schedules for both regular service reliability and storm event damage."

The PSC said it plans to hold meetings with city officials and utilities to stress the importance of good communication.

Also, tree-trmming policies, call center operations and outage analysis will be monitored to evaluate any needed changes, Wood said.

In the next six months, the PSC plans to review each of the report's recommendations with utility companies affected by the ice storm.

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