Winter storm spotlights LG&E's need for $112 million 'automated - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Winter storm spotlights LG&E's need for $112 million 'automated restoration' upgrade

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The weight of the snow that fell overnight Wednesday bent branches, snapped trees and knocked out power to a swath of homes in the Highlands. 

Bryan Beckley woke up to a one-two punch.

"I didn't realize how bad it was until I looked out the window," Beckley said. "I heard, like, a 'Boom!'"

The power outage forced him to dress in the dark.

"I live right up the hill at Yorktown Apartments," he said. "The whole complex is out."

Then on the way to work, he says he ended up sliding down the hill, crashing just feet from the source of the outage: a 60-foot hackberry tree that was ripped up from the root. The leaning tree closed Grinstead Drive in front of Cherokee Park as the only thing holding it up was power lines.

"We had that wet, heavy snow, and when that happens, it has the ability to weigh down tree limbs, and those get into our power lines and that's when we see these scattered outages," explained Natasha Collins, spokeswoman for LG&E.

It caused the biggest outage in Louisville, with 3,000 customers in the dark in the Highlands.

The outage comes as LG&E works to see fewer customers impacted during major weather events. Year-round teams look for sagging, as well as potentially problematic trees and power lines. The company is currently installing automated restoration equipment throughout its network.

"When you consider what it will be able to do, and put that with our system hardening, then it has the potential to have a great impact," Collins said.

Currently when outages like the one in the highlands occur, repairs crews go out and manually reroute the electricity until the line is fixed -- but automated restoration takes out the middle man.

"It is essentially able to identify when an outage occurs within our system, to locate that, to isolate that outage, and then to restore service, or limit as many people as possible from being impacted," Collins said.

It's part of a $112 million LG&E upgrade. The project is expect to take up to five years to complete. In the meantime, the company's repair guys helped Beckley out of a jam pushing his car back onto the road. 

"I'm very surprised," he said. "I didn't expect to see more snow. It's like a December day today."

He's hoping to put this dark day in his reviewable mirror. Repairs crews reopened Grinstead Wednesday evening.

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