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Crews work to restore power after storms

Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative crews at work
Sean Crawford/NPR Illinois
Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative crews at work

The derecho that moved through central Illinois Thursday left thousands without power.

At one point, Springfield's CWLP reported nearly half of customers were in the dark. Ameren had scattered outages in numerous counties. Co-ops also reported customers without power.

The damage was widespread. Trees were toppled, in many cases falling on power lines. Poles were also snapped, making service restoration more time consuming.

The Village of Chatham said clean up is underway. Village leaders issued a statement saying it is anticipated that portions of town with extensive damage may be without power for multiple days.

CWLP had made progress by Friday morning. But the Chief Engineer Doug Brown said there were more than 100 locations with downed power lines in Springfield.

"The sheer magnitude of damage will likely have outages lasting longer than 24 to 48 hours," he said.

No portion of the city was untouched, according to CWLP spokesperson Amber Sabin.

CWLP said it has a number of contract crews coming from Asplundh in addition to crews coming from Michigan and New Jersey utilities to assist.

CWLP provided the following protocols for getting customer service restored:

The first repair priorities beyond safety issues and downed power lines, are often transmission lines, high-voltage lines that deliver electricity from power plants to substations. Although protected by wide rights of way, these lines can be damaged by falling branches and trees. Without these lines, power cannot be delivered to customers.

Also vital to restoration efforts are distribution circuits. These 12.5 kilovolt (kV) circuits deliver power to all business and residential customers. Transformers, which are devices that convert electric current to various voltages, then reduce the 12.5 kV circuits to more usable voltages like 120-240, 208 and 480 volts at or near the customer’s location.

The wires that carry the customer’s load are called service lines. Typically after repairs are made on transmission lines and distribution circuits, CWLP crews are mobilized to get all service lines back in service. This strategy makes the best use of personnel and equipment.

Once transmission lines, substations and distribution circuits can again deliver power, CWLP assigns priority to lines that serve hospitals, police departments, emergency services and other facilities that are essential to public health and safety.

Other restoration work is prioritized by repairs that affect the largest number of customers. For example, a repair serving 200 customers is done before a repair serving five customers. This is the quickest way to restore power to the most customers.

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