Dark clouds, lightning in the distance and swaying tree limbs were all indicators that a severe storm was making its way through our service territory. That was the scene last week as a short but highly impactful storm passed through Bexar County.
Before the ominous conditions were visible, we were preparing to respond to potential power outages. As is the norm, service centers initiate crews to work into the evening hours to ensure our customers could get their service restored as quickly and as safely as possible. Warehouse personnel were on the move, double-checking that ample supplies of transformers, wires and utility poles were on hand. Energy Advisors prepared to stay late so that customers could get their phone calls answered when reporting power outages. And folks at our Energy Management Center were keeping a vigilant eye on the storm path and its effects to immediately send out crews to restore power.
More than 300,000 customers were affected at some point by a storm-related power outage. Many of these experienced only a momentary outage as our system is set up to “self-heal” so that power can be restored without the need to send a crew. However, for many customers during the peak of the storm, the outages lasted longer as disruptions from 3,400 lightning strikes in our area, fallen tree limbs from gusting winds of up to 70 mph and more than 700 reports of power lines on the ground made it difficult for the system to self-restore.
During the overnight hours and throughout the weekend, we had an “all hands-on deck” approach with 500 CPS Energy team members and contractors working to restore power and support customers. This consisted of crews, call center personnel, contractors and restoration support teams working in concert to coordinate the plan of action to get the lights back on for the nearly 57,000 affected customers who called us to report a power outage. We even brought in contract crews from Austin, New Braunfels and the Rio Grande Valley to help us get everyone’s power back on as quickly as we could.
CPS Energy operates just like any other utility when it comes to how power gets restored. Our goal is to restore as many people as possible at once. To do this, larger circuits that provide electricity to hundreds if not thousands of homes are worked first. In this scenario, we can get the lights back on for a multitude of customers and then focus our attention on smaller isolated outages that may require additional resources such as tree trimmers, pole crews or other personnel. Many times, this leads to some homes on a block having their power restored, while their neighbors might not. This happens quite often as each home may be on a separate circuit or transformer.
Our message to customers
There were significant challenges to complete restoration to the customers who remained without power for many hours over the weekend. Each had unique circumstances and different challenges that required additional work outside of just restoring power. In some cases, there were still trees and debris that needed to be removed before we could complete our work. We also identified repairs that needed to be made outside of our infrastructure work, such as residential or commercial electrician work.
We appreciate the patience you demonstrated during our restoration process. We understand the inconvenience that came with not having electricity and we did our best to get your lights back on as quickly and safely as we could.
The impacts of the storm were much greater than anticipated and that affected the estimated restoration times you may have seen on our outage map. Each outage is unique and various factors go into the restoration time such as:
- Severity of damage to equipment
- Accessibility of location to repair
- Various other elements
Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding as we worked to weather this storm. We look forward to continuing to serve you 24/7, rain or shine.