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December 16, 2008

Index developed to help predict ice damage

December 16, 2008 — As ice fell on Rogers County Sunday evening, many utility officials had a better sense of what was to come. With last year’s storm deeply embedded in everyone’s memory, officials now have a new tool to assist in their planning.

It’s only after a natural disaster — tornado, hurricane or ice storm — do researchers and meteorologists use calculations to determine how severe the storm actually was.

Two Oklahomans have devised a new tool to evaluate the levels of ice storms.

Sid Perry, director of Public Relations and Communications and Research at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives and Steve Piltz, National Weather Service meteorologist, have combined their efforts to produce “The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index.”

The SPIA emerged following the ice storm which hit eastern and southeastern Oklahoma in January 2007.

Sperry, who has been involved in the electric utility industry for nearly 29 years, has seen his share of ice storms. He believes ice storms are far more damaging to electric transmission systems than other types of weather-related storms.

“This is because an ice storm’s footprint is typically very large and, depending upon the total amount of rainfall, the ice accumulation totals within the footprint or impact area can be staggering,” Sperry said.

“To my knowledge, no such “damage index” existed for ice storms. So, after ‘surviving’ 7 ice storms over an 8 year period of time (2000 through 2007), I decided that such a damage scale was needed for gauging the effects of ice storms, and basing the index largely on utility system damages, which are fairly easy to calculate since the values of an electric system’s component parts are easy to determine, along with factoring in calculations for man-hours and labor for the response and recovery effort in total.”

The ice damage index is on a 1-5 scale. 1 and 2 describe some to scattered outages that only last a few hours. 3 and 4 are defined by outages that last up to or beyond 3 days. 5 is the worst, with catastrophic damage and outages that last several weeks.

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