MOORE — For almost a month after the May 20 tornado ripped through Moore, everyone around Ken Steiner's house in the Baer's Westmore addition had power but him.
At first, he and his family waited patiently for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. to make the necessary repairs to the electrical infrastructure in the neighborhood just south of SW 19. In the meantime, Steiner kept topping up the gasoline for a portable generator so his lights and window air-conditioning units could stay on.
But as days turned into weeks, Steiner's frustration grew. OG&E told him the city of Moore had to send an inspector to make sure the house met electrical code. When that inspector showed up, he said Steiner's landlord would need a building inspection to make sure roof repairs were acceptable.
More days passed. When city inspectors got around to the building inspection, the paperwork wasn't filed properly, leading to more delays and more frustration. Steiner estimates he's spent about $40 a day on gasoline for the portable generator since his family was able to get back into the neighborhood on May 24.
“It is a battle to get electricity,” he said Tuesday morning between working for a property management company and making more phone calls to OG&E. “The 7-Eleven down the street, the liquor store, everyone around me has power except me.”
But by Tuesday afternoon, OG&E had a sent an employee out to hook up Steiner's electricity.
“All my utilities are back on, and I'm a happy man,” he said Tuesday evening.
Steiner said large appliances and his central air-conditioning were damaged by a power surge and need repairs, but he's glad to have electricity again.
“At least I can sit by the window unit and soak up some cold air without worrying about the generator,” he said.
Speed vs. safety
OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said the utility worked with Moore officials after the deadly May 20 tornado to establish guidelines for when and how electricity could be restored safely. If there were visible holes in the roof or any type of damage fewer than 25 feet from the meter base — regardless of roof or structural damage — the utility would not provide power until repairs were made.
Alford said OG&E restored power to all customers who met that criteria by May 31. Homes that needed repair and requested power after May 31 required a city inspection.
“Prior to reconnect, our field personnel will work to ensure that the property has received a city inspection,” Alford said in an email. “If service can be restored, we'll re-energize the property. If the property cannot be re-energized, our field personnel will determine what is needed and note it in our system with an estimated time for completion.”
He said some locations affected by recent storms could require rebuilding of OG&E infrastructure. If that's the case, the utility's representatives will provide customers with a time frame for completion of the infrastructure repairs.
City of Moore busy
Elizabeth Jones, Moore's community development director, said city inspectors remain extremely busy with normal inspections and those from storm-damaged properties. The city has issued about 150 building permits since May 21 for storm damage repairs. She said the city still has a goal of doing same-day inspections if they're called in by 9 a.m.
The Moore City Council approved a 14-day moratorium on new home construction in the tornado-affected area while city staff considers options on infill standards for older affected neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the city is not requiring all debris to be removed before it approves building permits, Jones said. Lot surveys are still the responsibility of the property owners.
At least I can sit by the window unit and soak up some cold air without worrying about the generator.”