Va. Emergency Managers & Electric Companies Talk About Derecho - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Virginia Emergency Managers & Electric Companies Talk About Derecho

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Electric companies met with emergency managers to talk about the derecho and improvements they're making for the next major storm.  It was part of a three day conference of emergency managers in Hot Springs.

Appalachian Power says it's increasing the tree trimming budget by $10 million as part of a new pilot program in southwest Virginia. BARC Electric says it's looking at cutting trees back more than the 30-foot distance it cuts now.

APCo, BARC, and Dominion Power agree communication with customers and emergency managers needs improvement.

APCo says its working on a new website where you can track your power outage, similar to tracking package you're shipping from UPS.

"A customer can log on and see a little bit better when their outage has been assessed, when there may be work, and when they'll finally have power," said Scott Chambers with APCo. "We've been working on that very hard, improving our communication," with emergency management coordinators like Roanoke's Mike Guzo, who shared his concerns, along with others across the state.

"The information that was coming out was good but vague for public safety and emergency management," Guzo said. "We resorted to working with some of their technicians on actually just recording the outage map on a paper towel in the parking lot there at their office. We did that multiple times a day."

Guzo wants to see more live, electronic updates from power companies and shared information.

BARC agrees communication needs improvement and is also talking about cutting trees back further from lines, hoping to prevent damage the next time a storm rolls through.

"As far as calming the public fears, it's mother nature and we have no control over mother nature. We try to be prepared," said Jamie Lowry from BARC.

Recent storms since have caused more outages, which are linked to the derecho.

"Mainly it's about trees that were damaged during the wind event still breaking, they're dying," Chambers said. "Also some equipment that was damaged that we did not see. It may not have caused an outage but there are some long-lasting implications there."

All of the electric companies say they'll continue to look for ways to improve and make things better, working together with local government and agencies.