It is day five without power for many impacted by Friday’s violent storm and tornadoes in Nebraska. There are a little more than 1,000 Omaha Public Power District customers without service, mostly in Cass and Sarpy Counties. Director of Transmission and Distribution Engineering Tim Nissen says wind is a power lines biggest enemy. Most of their transmission lines are above ground and when we get 100 mph wind, tree limbs come down on lines and power poles break.
Nissen says options to reduce power outages include underground lines but that is extremely expensive. He says there underground power lines in downtown areas but installing them now would cost billions of dollars. Nissen says, “It is much less expensive to do that when the neighborhood is new. We could go into all the older neighborhoods in Bellevue and District 66 and northeast Omaha but can you think of the disruption of digging up all the trees, trying to dig through all the roots and tearing everything up. It would be at a great cost and a great inconvenience to folks.”
More cost effective measures would be to expand their tree trimming program, increase the strength of power poles and expand the smart grid that allows them to reconfigure the system in neighborhoods in response to storms.
Nissen says they are making good progress but the continually find issues that need attention as well. He says plans could alter as more severe storms are possible for the area tonight.