TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — Neighbors in east Alabama are preparing for impacts from sustained winds and gusts from Tropical Storm Zeta overnight.
Utility providers are particularly concerned about tree limbs and branches falling on power lines.
“We a lot of trees in our area, and when storms like this come through, the potential for damage from trees falling over is always great,” said Jon Cullimore, Manager of Marketing and Member Services at Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative.
While there wasn’t much more than a breeze Wednesday afternoon, conditions are expected to change by the early morning hours.
“The information we are getting is anywhere between 35 to 60 mile per hour winds and so we are expecting the worse,” Cullimore continued. “The forecast of the storm is to pretty much go right through our service territory.”
CVEC serves close to 18,000 customers in Talladega, Calhoun, St. Clair, Shelby, Clay, and Etowah Counties.
“The majority, vast majority of our service territory is not in towns or cities, it is out in the countryside and we have a lot of trees in our area,” said Cullimore.
One concern for smaller utility providers in rural areas is the amount of miles and geographic territory to cover. Having a large number of scattered outages could force utility workers to cover a lot of ground.
“We might have 200, 300 separate interruptions on our system and with the 35-40 guys we have to respond and get those outages back on, it takes time,” said Cullimore.
Crews trim limbs year round to cut back on the risk, but leaders are encouraging neighbors who need power for medical equipment to consider staying elsewhere in case of an early morning outage.
Several east Alabama counties, including Calhoun and St. Clair are opening storm shelters.
“If you are in maybe a mobile home or a manufactured home that you may not want to stay in your home tonight if you are surrounded by a lot of pine trees, especially with the amount of wind that we may have tonight,” Tiffany DeBoer with Calhoun County EMA.
Many school districts in east Alabama have delayed the start of school two hours Thursday because of the weather. Workers with utility crews are on standby, ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
“It is not going to sit here and pour a bunch of rain on us over an extended period of time. It is going to get in here and get out, and allow our guys to get out there and restore service quickly to those outages, those people who have been effected,” said Cullimore.
CVEC customers can check and report outages on the app, or here.