Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 12)

Preparing for the worsT The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index helps co-ops predict ice storm damage photo by Jim McCarty A by Kyle Spradley kspradley@ruralmissouri.coop photo by Diana Bradford, White River Valley Electric Cooperative s a teenager growing up in the small Oklahoma town of Gage, Sid Sperry had an unusual job. He was just looking for a way to make a couple extra bucks, so he landed himself a gig at the local airport, where a flight service station was used by cross-country aircraft to get weather updates. Little did he know that simple job would have an impact on his life decades later. Fast-forward to 2006. Sid was now working in the communications department for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC). In December of that year, two ice storms that hit the Oklahoma Panhandle spurred Sid’s almost forgotten fascination with the weather. “It was just so wild that these two storms hit a week apart,” says Sid, now director of public relations, communications and research at OAEC. “We have all this technology for predicting weather, why couldn’t we use that to help predict damages?” A month later, Sid approached the Oklahoma Climate Survey and Steven Piltz, chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Tulsa, to help develop an “ice accumulation algorithm.” After going through years of data from previous ice storms that included observations from coop- eratives across the country, including Missouri, the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index (SPIA) was born. It’s now an invaluable tool for co-ops to prepare for incoming storms and predict where outages will be most severe. “The way the index works is based on categories of damage to the utility system,” says Sid. “It brings together ice accumulation amounts and wind speed forecasts from the National Weather Service and translates that into known damage potential.” Regional maps of the United States are updated daily on the SPIA Index website to predict the coming days’ forecasts. Each map is color-coded to represent one of the five categories based on outage times and damage to utility systems. Additional maps help visualize forecasted ice and wind separately. “We have been very accurate in predicting storms with this index,” says Sid. “Our first test was just weeks after we developed it with a storm that hit Oklahoma. Our projections using NWS forecasts were made three days ahead of the storm and were right on target with the footprint of devastation.” Knowing where the heaviest damage will be, co-ops can now pinpoint where to place crews and materials to fix damage to power lines faster than they could in the past. “We used it during the blizzard of 2011, and it was on target with the snowfall,” says Rob Land, director of risk management and training for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “With a wind storm, you are going to lose some poles, but a bad ice storm truly is the worst thing for our electrical system. Once it accumulates on the poles and wires, everything comes down. It’s great having this for our co-ops to prepare and restore outages faster.” Available for free online, the SPIA Index has been used not only by co-ops, but other emergency responders as well. “I’ve heard from county officials using it to predict what roads to salt, school superintendents, first responders and organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army that provide shelters and goods for those affected,” Sid says. “This is a great tool for anyone interested in storm preparation.” In the future, Sid looks to add more forecasting index maps to help with droughts and wildfires with the hope of helping more people prepare for devastating natural disasters. “I make no money on it, it’s all for the public good,” says Sid. “I am glad that I am able to turn my interest in the weather into a great good for people to use.” Visit www.spia-index.com to learn more about the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index and for the latest weather updates. graphic courtesy of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives Top: The top of this Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative pole was covered with ice during the January 2009 storm that decimated co-op systems from Branson to the Bootheel. Left: A lineman for White River Valley Electric Cooperative scans power lines during an ice storm in 2009. Above: The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index is charted from a winter storm that hit parts of the Midwest Feb. 1-3, 2011. Each color on the graph represents the estimated amount of damage to the utility’s systems. 12 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://www.spia-index.com http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2013

Rural Missouri - February 2013
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
A lasting tribute
Preparing for the worst
Whittling wildlife
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Co-ops care
Around Missouri
Marketplace
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - February 2013

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