February CEO column focuses on ‘Cutting back’ on potential outages

James P. "Pat" Howle, Executive Vice President and CEO

James P. “Pat” Howle, Executive Vice President and CEO

Before a storm ever hits, Horry Electric Cooperative has already taken action to prevent outages. We take a proactive approach through a year-round process of maintaining our rights of way.

We are constantly cleaning, clearing, and trimming brush and debris away from our power lines. Why? When wind, rain, ice or snow push or weigh down trees, their limbs—sometimes the entire tree—can fall onto power lines, causing outages.

Right-of-way (ROW) maintenance helps ensure safe, reliable electric service. You have probably seen our maintenance contract crews’ vehicles with telescoping boom and saw-type cutter heads trimming trees, mowing or using chain saws to clear corridors beneath our power lines. Did you know that vegetation, trees, shrubs and brush growing too close to power lines and distribution equipment leads to approximately 15 percent of power interruptions?

Since we can’t cut our entire ROW every year, trees may grow 6 to 10 feet by the time the crews return. It’s a job that’s never done—when the crews finish trimming activities along our almost 3,000 miles of overhead distribution lines, vegetation is growing back at the starting point.

Another key reason for keeping the ROW clear is safety. Accidents happen so quickly. Kids climbing trees can be a tragedy if they touch a limb in contact with an energized line or touch the line itself. The result can be severe injury or even death. Adults also are at risk if working around lines in trees. Power lines on the Horry Electric system can carry up to 25,000 volts—even a touch can be deadly.

Trees beautify our property, help cool our homes, provide privacy screens, and even sometimes increase our property value if placed properly. Unfortunately, trees and power lines are not a good mix. Trees growing into lines can cause blinks and power outages. (Even those vines that grow so fast in spring and summer can cause “line loss,” or power lost in transmission, if the vines give the power a path to the ground.)

Before planting trees in your yard, think about how tall they may grow and how wide their branches may spread. As a rule of thumb, 25 feet of ground-to-sky clearance should be  available on each side of our utility poles to give power lines plenty of space. Choose tree varieties with care and plant with power lines in mind.

Thanks for your cooperation—that’s what makes Horry Electric Cooperative work!

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