Power line safety features target potential hazards

BOONE COUNTY, Mo. - Some safety features installed on Boone County power lines may help maintenance crews know which lines are at risk of breaking.

Chris Rohlfing, manager of member services at Boone Electric Cooperative, said crews have trimmed more dead branches this summer than in many seasons past.

"This year, particularly after these storms, we're really trying to chase dead trees, because the ones that died in the drought of 2012," Rohlfing said Sunday. "Over half the trees during this trim that are dead trees that are now falling down or falling over right into the power line." 

One of those branches fell through a power line in Steve Harris' yard. His centuries-old box elder has fallen through the line twice in the last fifteen years, but the storms last Wednesday took down more branches in his yard than he can remember.

Power lines in Boone County come with a safety feature to let crews know which lines are at risk. When a tree limb pushes against a power line, it shuts power off in the area for a few seconds. 

"Lots of times, that limb will lift back up off the power line, and then when that thing re-energizes, everything's back to normal again," Rohlfing said. "But if it tries it twice, the third time it opens up and stays locked out, and that's when Boone's got to send a dispatcher crew out."

Rohlfing said Boone Electric Cooperative customers can also call the company to see if branches could potentially snap a power line in their yard. That consultation is free. 

If Boone Electric Cooperative must cut down a tree, Rohlfing said the company will replant it. Typically, the replanted tree will be a dogwood or a red bud, Rohlfing said, because those won't grow tall enough to interfere with the power line.

"But if someone really wants an oak, or a maple or some other kind of tree, we'll plant it far enough away from the power line where it won't give us any other trouble," Rohlfing said.

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