|Leaders from energy companies and technology partners gathered at AEP’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, recently to discuss power grid innovations. Photo by Sarah Hunyadi.|
(Story by Shanelle Hinkle-Moore)
“AEP is collaborating to modernize a complex system in a way that’s reliable, simple for customers to use and affordable.”
These are the words Phil Dion, vice president, Technology Business Development, used to describe AEP’s leadership in the Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI) National Dialogue Series.
AEP recently hosted one of IEI’s national discussions in Columbus, Ohio.
Dion co-moderated the open-dialogue exchange, which consisted of leaders and experts from energy companies and technology partners, with Lisa Wood, IEI’s executive director and executive vice president.
Bob Powers, AEP executive vice president and chief operating officer, kicked off the event with a welcome and opening remarks. Other AEP leaders who engaged in the discussion included Tom Kirkpatrick, vice president, Customer Services, Marketing and Distribution Services; and Tom Weaver, Distribution Systems Planning manager.
The roundtable’s purpose was to share best practices, innovations, and overcoming challenges to building a smarter and integrated power grid. A special focus was given to adapting technology which makes the system more segmented, which will make it more complex to manage.
There was a significant discussion about the costs of integration. Powers provided an example using his analog watch. Despite the timepiece’s inability to measure to the picosecond, it’s an effective tool and more affordable than other options. He advised, while new technologies may be attractive, the group must strive to apply technologies that are cost effective to customers.
Meeting attendees shared their perspectives on a variety of topics, including:
- Digital Grid Platform — Where are we today.
- Operating on the Grid Edge — Distributed energy resource integration and management.
- Digital Grid of the Future — What a fully integrated digital power grid may look like in 2022, the value opportunities, and barriers to moving forward.
The meeting was IEI’s first of three national dialogues on energy technology related topics. Future topics will include data analytics and access, and a clean energy future through partnerships.
Following the event, IEI representatives met with AEP’s Technology Council for further insight and conversation.
Why it’s important
AEP is committed to success as a next generation energy company. Hosting this forum is an example of how AEP actively engages to improve business and collaborate across the energy industry and with technology partners. Building a smarter energy infrastructure will help provide enhanced service and reliability. These efficiencies and innovative programs will help our customers save resources and money.
More about IEI
IEI’s purpose is to advance the adoption and application of new technologies to strengthen and transform the power grid. IEI’s members are investor-owned electric companies that represent nearly 70 percent of the U.S. electric power industry.
OHIO VALLEY — Kevin Dennis’s new book, “God Can: Redemption and Hope in the Drug Abuse War,” shows the powerful hand of God in the resurrection of a dilapidated school property into a facility to rebuild lives.
When Dennis and his wife faced the drug addiction of their adult daughter, they desperately searched for something or someone to help. In this book, they share their firsthand experiences to help others find help, hope and healing.
Dennis graduated from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. He retired from American Electric Power as an environmental manager with oversight of 70 electric generating plants in 11 states. He acquired important skills to aid in the Field of Hope revitalization.
AEP River Operations
William Cain, 64, AEP River Operations-Convent, died June 21.
Milton Lincoln, 58, AEP River Operations-Paducah, died May 21.
John Nibert, 94, retired, River Transportation Division, died June 17.
Randall Wedge, 58, River Transportation Division, died June 23.
AEP Service Corporation
Tim Howdyshell, 60, AEP Headquarters, died June 11.
Ralph Pastore, 87, retired, AEP Headquarters, died May 26.
Appalachian Power Company
Richard Dick, 82, retired, Hartford City Service Center, died June 19.
Dennis Fletcher, 84, retired, Bb&T Building, died June 9.
Stephen Greenlee, 63, Mountaineer Plant, died June 9.
George Grimm, 88, retired, Mountaineer Plant, died June 27.
Charles Jones, 83, retired, North Charleston Service Center, died June 17.
James Oliver, 98, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died May 20.
William Rowley, 88, retired, Roanoke Main Office, died June 16.
Charles Shannon, 77, retired, Roanoke Service Building, died June 14.
Cecil Watson, 75, retired, Gate City Service Center, died June 11.
Columbus Southern Power Company
Richard Buchanan, 76, retired, Athens Service Center, died June 24.
Willard Frost, 87, retired, Hillsboro Service Center, died June 7.
Wilma Johnson, 86, retired, Chillicothe Office, died June 5.
Robert Peters, 85, retired, Picway Plant, died June 25.
Alvin Pierce, 83, retired, Chillicothe Office, died March 12.
William Rudolph, 79, retired, Columbus Meter Reading, died June 4.
Leonard Whaley, 67, Energy Delivery Headquarters-Gahanna, died June 8.
Indiana Michigan Power Company
Ralph Horning, 83, retired, South Bend Office, died June 11.
Kentucky Power Company
Margaret Pigman, 88, retired, Hazard Office, died June 14.
Willis Shannon, 77, retired, Big Sandy Plant, died June 19.
Ohio Power Company
Richard Bailey, 81, retired, Lancaster Office Building, died June 21.
James Farnsworth, 82, retired, Muskingum River Plant, died June 22.
Joseph Jackfert, 101, retired, Cardinal Plant, died June 11.
Paul Rafa, 87, retired, Cardinal Plant, died June 22.
Donald Reed, 88, retired, Bucyrus Office Building, died June 7.
Bobby Richie, 82, retired, Gavin Plant, died June 4.
Sally Maneely, 77, retired, Coshocton Office Building, died June 19.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Otto Bryant, 86, retired, Tulsa General Office, died June 5.
Alice Clinch, 92, retired, Tulsa General Office, died June 20.
Kenneth Gee, 89, retired, Tulsa General Office, died May 20.
Wilbur Harmon, 90, retired, Tulsa General Office, died June 11.
Catherine Murray, 88, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died June 27.
Walter Rodocker, 68, Aransas Pass Service Center, died June 13.
Harold Walker, 92, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died May 5.
Orval Wilbur, 83, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died June 12.
A.M. Stocks, 82, retired, Abilene General Office, died May 30.
Diane Montgomery, Energy Delivery Headquarters-Gahanna, retired June 1 after 15 years of service.
Mary Murdock, 850 Tech Center, retired June 1 after 30 years of service.
James Orlando, Canton General Service Center, retired June 1 after 10 years of service.
Kim Roose, Mound Street Service Center, retired June 2 after 46 years of service.
Christi Vesely, Canton Eastern Regional Office, retired June 7 after 35 years of service.
Robert Warner, Lima Service Center, retired June 2 after 36 years of service.
Dana Wieman, Lima Service Center, retired June 1 after 37 years of service.
Ronald Yoho, Wheeling Service Building, retired June 1 after 29 years of service.
Kenton Young, Delaware Service Center, retired June 25 after 40 years of service.
AEP Service Corporation
Richard Bewley, Fayetteville Operations, retired June 10 after 25 years of service.
Sheryl Cleaver, AEP Headquarters, retired June 18 after 35 years of service.
Doug Duvall, AEP Headquarters, retired June 4 after 34 years of service.
Jeffrey Hutchinson, AEP Headquarters, retired June 4 after 35 years of service.
Roger Muncy, Home Worksite-South Carolina, retired June 4 after 42 years of service.
Richard Riley, AEP Headquarters, retired June 22 after 21 years of service.
David Wilder, Renaissance Tower, retired June 1 after 40 years of service.
Larry Hardeway, El Campo Service Center, retired June 18 after 42 years of service.
Appalachian Power Company
Warren Bailey, Lynchburg Service Center, retired June 24 after 26 years of service.
Arlen Breeden Jr., North Charleston Service Center, retired June 29 after 37 years of service.
John Maynard, Roanoke Main Office, retired June 1 after 29 years of service.
Larry Scarberry, St. Albans Service Center, retired June 25 after 38 years of service.
Randy Blue, Cardinal Plant, retired June 1 after 37 years of service.
Leslie Brown, Northeastern Station 3&4, retired June 2 after 37 years of service.
Bruce Butler, Cardinal Plant, retired June 1 after 27 years of service.
Diana Carpenter, Mountaineer Plant, retired June 1 after 37 years of service.
Mark Carroll, Conesville Plant, retired June 30 after 40 years of service.
Joe Day Jr., Amos Plant, retired June 1 after 26 years of service.
Robert Hadsell, Cardinal Plant, retired June 1 after 36 years of service.
Vicki Hanson, Gavin Plant, retired June 3 after 10 years of service.
Jerry Hodges, Amos Plant, retired June 25 after 36 years of service.
Jeffrey Huffman, Amos Plant, retired June 1 after 37 years of service.
Scott Kerr, Cardinal Plant, retired June 1 after 36 years of service.
John Mullins, Gavin Plant, retired June 16 after 40 years of service.
Arthur Offenberger, Muskingum River Plant, retired June 18 after 44 years of service.
Marvin Poindexter, Amos Plant, retired June 4 after 44 years of service.
Robert Prentice, Alliance Railcar Facility, retired June 4 after 33 years of service.
Stephen Price, Mountaineer Plant, retired June 30 after 35 years of service.
Connie Prouse, Amos Plant, retired June 1 after 14 years of service.
Roger Moore, Amos Plant, retired June 11 after 36 years of service.
Robert Stone, Amos Plant, retired June 11 after 34 years of service.
Mark Swart, Leesville Hydro, retired June 1 after 37 years of service.
Leonard Welling, Conesville Plant, retired June 29 after 19 years of service.
Thomas Winenger, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired June 11 after 46 years of service.
Clifford Wyatt, Mountaineer Plant, retired June 1 after 40 years of service.
Indiana Michigan Power Company
Michael Burnett, South Bend Service Center, retired June 1 after 20 years of service.
Terry Graham, Marion Service Center, retired June 1 after 36 years of service.
David Masura, Three Rivers Service Center, retired June 1 after 40 years of service.
Dennis Reames, Three Rivers Service Center, retired June 1 after 38 years of service.
Peter VandeVisse, Buchanan Nuclear Generation Office, retired June 1 after 11 years of service.
Mary Lou Wierda, Elkhart Service Center, retired June 30 after 25 years of service.
Kentucky Power Company
Shirley Gerlach, Robert E. Matthews Service Center, retired June 1 after 32 years of service.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Donald Carey, Tulsa General Office, retired June 24 after 26 years of service.
Southwestern Electric Power Company
Charles Brakeville, Haughton Operations Center, retired June 2 after 38 years of service.
Keith Honey, Longview Operations, retired June 1 after 35 years of service.
Nina Hustus, Shreveport General Office, retired June 10 after 15 years of service.
Alvin Tyler, Fayetteville Operations, retired June 1 after 36 years of service.
Keith Bailey, T&D Operations, retired June 18 after 36 years of service.
Kim Bates, Cambridge Transmission Service Center, retired June 3 after 24 years of service.
Lathora Meeks Jr., Bluefield (Va.) Service Center, retired June 1 after 35 years of service.
Michael Ray, Mound Street Service Center, retired June 11 after 40 years of service.
Domingo Tonche, T&D Operations, retired June 4 after 35 years of service.
William Wilhelm, John W. Vaughan Center, retired June 1 after 36 years of service.
(Story by Matthew Thompson)
The Magic Mart department store in Rainelle, W.Va., closed two years ago.
It was an anchor store in the Park Center Plaza. The store’s closing was an economic blow to the small Greenbrier County town.
But recently the doors have reopened and the shelves have been stocked with food, clothing, toys and housewares. In the aisles, dozens of people go up and down, rummaging to find what they need.
Only this isn’t a resurrection of the Magic Mart – it’s a Red Cross distribution center for the more than 1,500 residents affected by catastrophic flooding that hit the area in June. The floods claimed 23 lives, displaced thousands and caused millions of dollars of damage in West Virginia.
In Rainelle, many businesses and homes are uninhabitable. Residents now rely on the old Magic Mart to help rebuild their lives.
In one area of the store, a Red Cross worker helped a young girl find toys to replace water-damaged ones. In another aisle, people picked up multiple bottles of bleach, mops and other cleaning supplies. Canned goods, dry goods, snacks and water line the shelves of another section to help people replenish their pantries.
On July 8, Appalachian Power volunteers set up outside the store and at a nearby church to serve hot dogs and hamburgers to residents, along with helping clean up houses and businesses in the town.
The effort was a personal one for employee Danny Windon. Although he now works out of the Beckley Service Center, Windon grew up four miles from Rainelle in nearby Charmco and members of his family still live in the area.
“I have two brothers and a sister who lost their homes in this flood,” Windon said.
Windon said one of his brothers resides in the home the family grew up in. Growing up, he said flooding was a common occurrence every other year, but nothing of the magnitude of the recent event.
“As a kid, it would flood, but never in our house,” Windon said. “But this time the water was at the ceilings. It was eight-feet deeper than it had ever been before.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Windon, who is a distribution line coordinator, worked in the area to restore power. He also volunteered his spare time to help clean up a region he calls home.
“The help we have received has just been overwhelming,” Windon said. “There have been so many people in this town helping out and it’s just been wonderful.”
On Main Street in Rainelle, residents and volunteers from churches and disaster relief organizations work to clean up after the floods.
A walk down Main Street is now more of an obstacle course than a stroll. Piles of debris litter the sidewalks outside businesses, most of which are closed due to flood damage.
In the window of a Maytag appliance store, the words “We Will Be Back!!” are written in green paint as a mantra to passersby that rebuilding is in the cards. The debris in front of a dentist’s office is stacked so high it nearly touches the façade’s awning.
Andrea Pendleton, known as “Mayor Andi” to the town’s residents, has been the head honcho for six years. Pendleton said the last few weeks have been “a drain.”
“I just care so much about these people,” Pendleton said. “I just keep on trying to do good things and help everybody out.”
Pendleton added the support the town has received has been “amazing.”
“It’s people helping people, and people in trouble helping other people,” Pendleton said. “We have had people from different states; different organizations and some people just came on their own to help out. They are all just doing a terrific job.”
Pendleton said she is also thankful for Appalachian Power’s response during and after the flooding.
“Appalachian Power Company is really, really special,” she said. “I really depend on them and they have the energy that this town needs right now.”
(Story by Barry Schumann)
From supporting one FIRST Robotics high school team in 1996 to more than 100 robotics teams at all grade levels in 2016, AEP has promoted STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics) education and STEM careers through robotics over two decades.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) seeks to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based, robotics-centered programs that build STEM skills, inspire innovation and foster self-confidence, communication and leadership.
AEP awarded a total of $200,000 in grants of between $250 and $6,000 to 101 FIRST teams across the AEP service area earlier this year. The company has contributed more than $2.5 million to inspire an estimated 23,000 students’ interest and participation in science and technology since 1996. AEP increased its annual donations for FIRST teams to $200,000 in 2009, and has seen the number of teams interested in funding grow ever since.
Less easy to track through the years has been participation of employees across the AEP System in volunteer roles of FIRST coaches, mentors, judges, etc. While employees are encouraged to participate in these STEM programs, there has been no systematic way to record their efforts until now (see related story).
FIRST robotics includes activities and competitions for Junior FIRST LEGO League for grades K-4, FIRST LEGO League for grades 4-8, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for grades 7-12 and FIRST Robotics Competition for grades 9-12. All teams are led by educators, coaches and/or mentors who volunteer to engage students in researching and solving a diverse range of problems using robotics. AEP provides grants to teams through a competitive application process with a late-January deadline each year.
New this year, AEP joined the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) and 11 other energy companies to sponsor FIRST and promote a new STEM career awareness program for middle and high school students. The Get into Energy/Get into STEM program coordinated by CEWD is in its second year. This year’s sponsorship provided funding at competitions for “robot doctor” stations, to help FTC teams with fees to transition to a new technology platform, and to offer FTC team grants.
Information on the [AEP FIRST robotics grant program ]is available at the Community and Education Relations section on AEP Now.
CEWD is a consortium of electric, natural gas, and nuclear companies and their associations. Through partnerships with energy companies, the community, and academia, CEWD helps to foster exploration and participation in energy career paths leading to future employees. To learn more, visit Get Into Energy.
FIRST volunteers asked to share experience
AEP encourages employees to consider volunteering as coaches or mentors for teams, or as judges or volunteers for local and regional competitions. This year, nearly three dozen employees from nine states and every operating company volunteered for some aspect of FIRST robotics. But there may be others who have volunteered to coach or assist their local team or event. We suspect that all who volunteered would like to share information on their efforts to encourage STEM learning.
To that end, EEI and CEWD have created an online system to enable employees and companies to register, enter and track their volunteer and monetary support for FIRST robotics teams and/or events. The system will help AEP, its operating companies, and our industry understand how employee volunteer efforts along with corporate monetary support is impacting STEM learning through FIRST robotics.
If you would like information on volunteering for FIRST in the future, please contact Barry Schumann.
|Lawrenceburg Plant employee John Ascherman (third from left) with his family, son Kyle, wife, Kim, and daughter, Hannah.|
AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees. All employees and retirees are invited to share their stories about the changes they are making to live healthier lives. This “Wellness Journey” is from John Ascherman, combined cycle technician senior at Lawrenceburg Plant, Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Where I was and how I got there:
The day I will never forget, Sept. 15, 2012, started as any other Saturday with breakfast and coffee with my wife, Kim. I was waiting for my daughter, Hannah, and her friend, Samantha, to get out of bed. That day we went to the girls’ soccer game. At halftime, I went to the concession stand to get a drink and something to eat. Halfway back to my chair, I saw a friend of mine. I stopped to talk to him and I began to get really dizzy.
I then headed back to my chair and got some aspirin from my wife’s purse because I had a slight headache. I finished watching the game, and as I folded up my lawn chair, I dropped my water bottle at my feet. I bent over to get it, and my arms would not move to pick up the bottle. I became extremely dizzy and things started to turn black, like I was looking down a dark tunnel. As I bent back up, everything became clear again.
As we walked back to the car, I handed the keys to Kim. I told her that I thought I had almost passed out. We stopped and talked to other parents and kids and proceeded on to the car. When we arrived at the main entrance of the school to attend a fundraiser, I was walking behind my wife as we entered the school.
My turning point:
I must have been talking about something when Kim noticed I sounded like Popeye. I was slurring my speech. She turned to look at me, and she then noticed my eye and mouth had sagged on one side of my face. She rushed me to Dearborn County Hospital, not waiting for an ambulance since we were close to the car.
I was at the hospital for three or four hours and then was transferred to University Hospital in Cincinnati. I was roomed on the fourth floor, which is dedicated to the Neurology Department. What a great place! During this stay, all I remember is that I couldn’t get enough sleep. At one point, I expressed concern to my wife about the cost. She said it really didn’t matter the cost, as long as I was alive!
I spent four days at UC hospital before transferring to a rehabilitation center in Northern Kentucky. During rehabilitation, I had to learn to walk again, and at age 49, that was not fun! I also had to build strength and work on regaining mobility on the left side of my body. When I was discharged from rehab, I was 5’ 11” and weighed 237 pounds.
The first night that I arrived home, my wife helped me into the shower. You wouldn’t think stepping into a bathtub was a big deal, but it was very challenging. I was so weak that I didn’t have enough strength to dry myself off or pull up my underwear. I decided then that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life depending on someone else to get dressed.
After several weeks of occupational therapy, practicing walking to the mailbox and back, I was on my way to recovery. One way I worked on getting my balance back was to play video games on Wii. I played golf, bowling, skiing and other balance games. At the beginning of the game each day, I had to weigh myself. I was not sure it was accurate or not, but I noticed that I had started to lose weight.
I was off work for about five months. There are many hidden injuries due to my stroke still to this day that affect multitasking, concentration, and memory. Is it the end of the world? No. Things I thought were important really don’t matter anymore.
My stroke was a Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA. A TIA occurs when you lose blood flow to your brain. The doctors are not sure why it happened. I had no blockage in my veins. I have since come to my own conclusion about what may have caused it to happen. I was reading information from the Cleveland Clinic that you should never eat a breakfast sandwich from fast food restaurants. They are what I call “sodium bombs” that will spike your blood pressure. I was stopping most mornings, getting a McDonalds breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee on my way to work. I was overweight and seemed to have a lot of stress in my life.
Editor’s note: For reference, McDonald’s Corp. nutrition information states that its Steak, Egg and Cheese Bagel contains 1,510 milligrams sodium, or 63 percent of the recommended daily value. McDonald’s Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddle sandwich has 1,250 mg sodium (52% RDV); Sausage McMuffin with Egg has 860 mg sodium (36% RDV), and Egg McMuffin has 750 mg sodium (31% RDV). Source: http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf
Staying on track:
After losing 50 pounds, I got off of blood pressure medicine completely. I never go to a fast food restaurant at lunch. If I do go out, I go to Kroger and get a salad to go. Salmon is one of my new favorite foods, it is full of good Omega 3’s. I read most labels on boxes. I love pizza but very seldom eat it.
Your doctor may recommend that you consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. Eating a low-sodium diet means more than just eliminating the salt shaker from the table! However, that is a good start since one teaspoon of table salt = 2,300 mg of sodium. Also remember that 77 percent of all sodium is in processed food. For snacks, instead of eating a bag of chips, I eat a bag of carrots.
Paying it forward:
I want to personally thank my family during this difficult time. Without them, I would have never made it back to work. I also want to thank all the occupational therapists and physical therapists who worked with me during recovery. They are a great group of people who dedicate their lives to helping others. Since my stroke, my daughter has decided to pursue an occupational therapy degree in college. I’m sure there are a whole lot of other people I should thank. I just thank God for giving me another day on this earth!
Do you have a wellness journey you’d like to share? Your story can be about weight loss, overcoming an illness or condition, maintaining good health habits or some other topic related to well-being. Just send an email to email@example.com.
|The customized and supersized goalposts made by Valmont, a leading manufacturer of utility structures, carry 69-kilovolt transmission lines across the highway.|
(Story by Stephen Ostrander)
They are being called the pieces de resistance. Two transmission structures shaped like football goalposts now adorn the roadsides of I-77 in Canton, Ohio, to remind travelers they are moments from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the city’s main attraction undergoing a $476 million expansion and renovation.
The customized and supersized goalposts made by Valmont, a leading manufacturer of utility structures, carry 69-kilovolt transmission lines across the highway. The whimsical structures were erected by New River Electrical Corp, the principal contractor on this project for AEP Transmission, in June.
AEP Transmission and AEP Distribution are working together to relocate power lines in what will be the Hall of Fame Village, comprising the renovated museum, new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (seating for 23,000 fans), sports and entertainment complex, hotel and conference center, 3,000-seat indoor football field (Performance Center for Excellence), assisted living facility, youth sports complex, retail stores and restaurants. Half a dozen other utilities have to relocate facilities for village construction. The goal is to open a major portion of the village for the National Football League’s centennial season of 2019.
Newly-designed overhead power lines streaming electricity to the complex from three substations will ensure reliable service in case of a power interruption. A new underground Distribution power loop will add another layer of security to the area grid. Building redundancy for reliable service makes sense, given the potential economic benefits of the destination — $15.3 billion net economic output and thousands of jobs over 25 years. The Hall of Fame will pick up the costs for most of these improvements.
“We are pleased that we could install these unique, eye-catching goalposts as part of the expansion and remake of the Pro Footbal l Hall of Fame,” said Bethany McCrea, project manager, AEP Transmission. “This has been an extraordinary project because it has led to great collaboration with AEP Distribution, External Affairs, Customer Services, Public Outreach, Forestry, Supply Chain and others. Our teamwork has benefitted the project significantly and makes us feel we have contributed to the success of the Hall of Fame. We also worked with numerous city departments to get the easement supplements for relocating facilities and hasten construction. I am very proud of what our team has accomplished.”
A ceremony for 2016 Hall of Fame inductees occurs August 6.
On September 17, 1920, a group of men gathered in downtown Canton, Ohio, at the Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay, owner of the hometown Bulldogs. The result of that historic meeting was the birth of the National Football League; one of the reasons why the Pro Football Hall of Fame calls Canton its home.
|This photo, captured by Kris Meyers, a utility forester for Appalachian Power, shows the Clendenin, W.Va. area June 24. One day earlier, massive rains plagued the area causing the worst flooding in more than 100 years. It was around this area where employee Kevin Linhart was stuck for almost 30 hours before being rescued by helicopter.|
(Story by Matthew Thompson)
CLENDENIN, W.Va. – On Thursday, June 23, at 3 p.m., Appalachian Power employee Kevin Linhart was investigating outages during heavy rain storms in the Clendenin area. Almost 30 hours later, he was rescued by a helicopter after being trapped by raging flood waters in the Kanawha County community.
“Marooned” might be a better description for Linhart’s ordeal.
“It was like being on an island,” Linhart, 41, said. “You had a hillside behind you, but there was flood water everywhere.”
Linhart, a line mechanic based out of North Charleston, W.Va., was headed down Route 4 after receiving a call asking him to investigate a report of a tree on a distribution line. When he arrived, he found the tree had fallen across the road, blocking traffic.
Linhart called the foreman on the radio to give an update and exited his vehicle. He began to explore the area to see if any repairs could be made.
In an instant, the hillside gave way, creating a landslide that initially trapped Linhart between it and his truck. As the rain eased up, he drove around to the other side of the slide and isolated a phase of the power line that was still energized.
Once that was complete, Linhart quickly realized he wasn’t going anywhere. The rising waters of the Elk River were engulfing the area and he rushed to higher ground.
“The storm came through so fast,” he said. “Before you knew it, you were stuck.”
|Kevin Linhart has worked for Appalachian Power for eight years. After being rescued, Linhart said he went straight home to his wife and three children. After eight hours of rest, Linhart was back on the job, helping to restore power in the wake of massive flooding.|
He proceeded to the higher ground of a nearby Save-A-Lot grocery store, where he joined others trapped by the high water.
The collection of about 30 individuals was mostly made up of people on their way home from work, Linhart said. Also mixed in were crews from tree-trimming company Asplundh, and Davis H. Elliot Electric, a company Appalachian contracts with for restoration work.
With the waters continuing to rise, Linhart made a call to his wife, Jessica, and his three children to let them know about the situation.
“I let them know I was safe,” he said. “But they didn’t have the visual of where I was located, so they were concerned – even though I was letting them know I was all right.”
As day turned into night, Linhart said the group began to settle in. They spent hours talking, as an effort to stay calm in the situation. People who lived on an adjacent hillside provided food and beverages, but Linhart wasn’t up for eating.
“The people who lived around there were real generous – firing up the grill and making hot dogs and hamburgers,” he said. “But I didn’t eat a whole lot. My stomach was all torn up just worrying about everything.”
The thought of being separated from their families with no control over getting home was too much for some people, he said.
“This one man lived just right across the river from where we were,” Linhart said. “He called his wife and there was eight feet of water in their house and she was stranded on the second floor. The power was out and her cell phone battery died. That man just started crying because he couldn’t get to her. It took everything he had to get through it.”
The next day, flood waters were still surrounding the area.
Kris Meyers, a utility forester for Appalachian Power, sprang into action. After hearing about crews being trapped in Clendenin, he worked with helicopter crews to help out.
“We knew Asplundh was going to fly a helicopter in the area, so we just piggy-backed off that idea and flew in with supplies, at first,” Meyers said.
With no clear path to land, the helicopters made a pass over early Friday afternoon, dropping off medicine, water, lunch meat, bread and condiments.
Linhart said the river was still rising throughout Friday. He had to keep moving his truck further and further back up the hillside to ensure it wouldn’t be lost.
Finally at 8 p.m. Friday night, Linhart and others were able to make it to higher ground at Cobb Station Road, located about a half-mile from the Save-A-Lot. With enough room to land, a helicopter arrived and took people to safety.
“The helicopter dropped us off at the Clendenin park-and-ride lot, where a shuttle van was parked ready to take us home,” Linhart said.
Once he arrived home, Linhart said he couldn’t wait to embrace his family.
“There was a bunch of hugging, “ he said.
After some rest, Linhart was back to work eight hours later. He said he was eager to help the community.
“This is my hometown,” Linhart said. “I know a lot of people around here and to see them struggling, it makes you want to help. It’s our job to get them power.”
(Story by Teresa Hamilton Hall)
WYTHEVILLE, Va. — Years of planning on the part of Appalachian Power employees, and even one well-known and respected APCo retiree, will generate much needed reliability improvements for customers in a Virginia community.
The improvements involved upgrades to the overloaded and aging Austinville station transformer and surrounding circuits in rural Wythe County. Tim Hall, a senior engineer with distribution planning, said the work was critical to keeping the lights on for nearly 3,000 customers served by the substation.
“A station transformer failure prior to the conversion, which we felt was imminent, would have left customers without power and with no available circuit ties to transfer to,” he said. “The restoration effort with this scenario would have required the use of a mobile station transformer, thus making the outage recovery a lengthy process.”
To accomplish the work in the field would require organization. “They say the devil is in the details and there was just one person we knew who could make this project happen,” said Jon Fitzwater, senior engineer.
Retired Appalachian Power line inspector Jim Lane, who has a reputation for digging deep into the details of a project, stepped out of retirement for the third time to coordinate the job.
“He’s outstanding at what he does,” explained Fitzwater. “You give him a project and he follows through with it to the end.”
The two distribution circuits served by the Austinville station were operated at 12kV with no neighboring circuit ties and were surrounded by 34.5-kV distribution. According to Hall, this created an “island” effect.
“We chose to replace the station transformer with a 34.5-kV transformer rather than replace it with a larger 12-kV transformer, and convert the two circuits from 12kV to 34.5-kV operation to eliminate this problem.”
The conversion was completed May 24. Lane’s colleague Elizabeth Whitman, senior technician in Pulaski, echoed the sentiments shared by Fitzwater.
“Yes, Jim’s all about the detail,” she said. “This was tedious work converting miles of line and hundreds of transformers from 7.2 kV to 19.9.”
Fitzwater says don’t be surprised to see Lane as a contractor on other projects in the future. “If he’s available and willing we would welcome him back,” he said.