While other parts of Missouri reported devastation and destruction from Winter Storm Q, here in Rolla the effects of the weather appeared minimal.
“We haven’t had any outages,” Rolla Municipal Utilities General Manager Rodney Bourne said in a phone interview after shoveling the walk in front of the utility building.
In fact, Bourne said he wasn’t even aware of any small service line breakages.
“As long as it stays sleet, we’ll be OK. Sleet will just bounce off the lines. It’s the freezing rain that causes all the problems with the lines,” Bourne said.
Some RMU linemen were out working on routine calls, but most of the work being done was in the shop, where employees were doing the maintenance work that is put on hold during periods when outside work can be done, he said.
Public Works Director Steve Hargis said streets were salted Wednesday night in anticipation of the storm, and trucks were making rounds again Thursday.
“There are no serious problems,” Hargis said.
If your lights and television go dark, you can likely blame the weather no matter what time of year.
“Weather is the biggest cause of outages in Rolla,” Bourne told the Rolla City Council Tuesday night.
Speaking to the council to give his quarterly financial report and update on any construction going on for the utility company, Bourne also took some time to talk about power outages and storm response by RMU in anticipation of Winter Storm Q.
“Most people don’t have an emergency response plan,” Bourne said. “Everyone should have one. What are you going to do if the power goes out?”
When severe weather is on the way, RMU has staff members who keep monitoring weather reports and watching the equipment. If there is a massive power outage, RMU has a set order to follow as it works to “get the most on the fastest,” Bourne said.
First priority is to get the distribution system working, followed by service to the emergency providers (hospital, law enforcement, fire, ambulance).
Then linemen work on the main feeder lines, then the residential neighborhoods and finally the service from poles to houses.
If your power goes out, should you call 911 or the utility?
“Call 911 if health or safety is the issue,” Bourne said. “If the power just went out or if you see a problem, call the utility.”
Be prepared to answer questions such as “Did you hear something?” and “Did you see something?” You’ll likely be asked to look out the window to see if your neighbor’s lights are on.
“We have 137-138 miles of power lines,” Bourne said, so the more information available, the better.
He said a resident can be assured RMU will respond.
“You only need to call us once,” he said. “Your call will be logged.” RMU workers will work on your call, following the priority list. Someone will drive by your house to check to make sure your lights are working.
Call 364-1572 or 364-2195 to report an outage.
In January 2007, the last time Rolla received a massive ice storm, RMU crews worked 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with skeleton crews working overnight. That’s the procedure to be followed if another ice storm strikes this winter.
Bourne said residents question “Whose going to clean up the mess?” after ice takes down limbs or even whole trees. He explained that when crews clear lines or when limbs fall on public right of way, RMU will clean up the debris.
Most limbs and trees fall on private property. “When they are the homeowners’ trees, they will fall to the homeowner to clean up,” he said.
The winter weather did make for slippery driving throughout the state. Reports of cars sliding off roads and getting stuck in intersections were heard over the police scanner all day.
A 2001 Nissan Pathfinder driven by Tu Nguyen, 28, Rolla, was traveling too fast for conditions at 7:30 a.m. on westbound Interstate 44, 12 miles west of Rolla, according to Cpl. Steven Cunningham, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The Pathfinder ran off the road and overturned. Nguyen said he would seek treatment on his own of any injuries he might have received. Damage to the Nissan was extensive. C&C Towing was called to remove it. Nguyen was wearing a safety belt, according to the accident report.