Birch trees laden with snow and ice will — as poet Robert Frost memorialized in his piece “Birches” — often “bend to left and right/across the lines of straighter darker trees.”
Frost was inspired, but for an electrical utility such as Homer Electric Association, trees bent or broken under a load of fresh snow are a danger to powerlines and a frequent cause of outages such as those that struck the Sterling area after Sunday’s snowfall.
HEA Director of Member Relations Bruce Shelley said the utility had “somewhere in the area of six to 10 power outages” early in the week, “mainly caused by snowload bending or breaking trees over our powerlines.”
Announcements on HEA’s Facebook page record Sunday outages for 23 HEA members on Homer’s Skyline Drive, and 47 members around Sterling’s Moose Range and Robinson Loop areas, and on Friday a 141 member outage near Funny River.
After taking care of these larger outages, Shelley said HEA crews spent a lot of time in Sterling on Sunday “mopping up” smaller outages. Though he’s only informed of power outages that affect more than 20 HEA meters, Shelley said he’d heard of many outages in Sterling affecting single homes after falling trees or limbs disconnected the lines carrying power into their homes. HEA is still responsible for individual outages because “it’s our equipment all the way to the meter-base, whether that’s on a post out in the yard, or attached to the house,” Shelley said.
HEA is required to keep the rights-of-way surrounding its powerlines clear of trees for a certain distance from the line, but trees outside this limit can also cause outages if they are tall enough to bend or break over the line.
“We don’t have authority to cut the trees outside the easement, but if you see a tree that looks like it’s going down, call us, and there’s a good chance we’ll take it out if it could hit the lines,” Shelly said.
If your home is without power, HEA’s website recommends first checking fuses and circuit breakers, seeing if your neighbors are also having outages, and calling HEA’s outage hotline at 888-868-8243.
Reach Ben Boettger at email@example.com.