Utility Crews Try to Assess Damage Toll

By Bob Vandewater Published: May 4, 1999
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But with so many neighborhoods damaged or destroyed, people frequently reported having to drive or pass over downed lines to get into or out of areas or search for injured or missing people.

Alford said OG&E estimated the loss of at least six substations and multiple circuits due to the storm. A substation takes electricity from transmission lines and redistributes it to circuits that takes that power locally into neighborhoods, he said.

Several miles from the tornado path, people in Edmond and Norman also felt momentary effects, as their lights blinked or flickered.

Alford said as the tornado ripped power lines from poles or tore lines from houses, the flashes of light at the scene often would be accompanied by the flickering of lights miles away.

When lines are damaged or even rub against trees, "the circuit can shut off for a split second and test itself and then come back up," he said. "If the problem is still there, it will shut down again."

Alford said OG&E crews were especially concerned about finding areas with downed power lines in areas with natural gas leaks, because of the potential for fire.

"We try to move as rapidly as we can to those areas to ensure that our lines are not going to cause any problems," he said. "Elsewhere, we have multiple crews in and along the damage and storm path doing what we can to restore power as quickly as we can to areas."

Southwestern Bell spokeswoman Sue McCain said many telephone lines nowadays are buried. But many people trying to phone into and out of damaged areas and other parts of Oklahoma were encountering busy signals or recordings indicating telephone traffic was very high, and people should try calling later.

McCain said Bell crews would be out today to try to assess damage and start to restore service.


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