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Why power crews call this ice storm 'one of the toughest' restore jobs in recent history

Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 19:35:39-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The lone sound echoing off law books at the Central Library in Chesterfield Monday afternoon was the gentle click and shuffle of Nicole Wilson’s Rubik’s cube.

It is a hobby she picked up last year and one that has helped fill free time over the past three days.

Her family is one of thousands in the county still without power following the weekend ice storm.

“I probably did 30 solves just sitting here,” Wilson, who came to the warming/charging station with her family after the power went out at their Enon home Saturday morning, said. “Usually, in our house when something goes out, I get blamed. My son came downstairs and said, ‘did you turn my internet off?’ I said no. He said, ‘oh, guess the powers out!’”

Dominion Energy crews continue to work long hours to restore power in hard-hit areas south of the city of Richmond down to communities near the North Carolina border.

As of late Monday afternoon, less than 19,000 customers in the Richmond Metro/Tri-Cities were still without power.

That number well exceeded 100,000 outages at points over the weekend.

“The big problem for us are those trees,” Mike Powers, a 30-year veteran of working storm restoration events for Dominion, said as he surveyed a job off Church Road in Matoaca.

The area was a good example of a problem spot during this storm, Powers said, because of the large number of evergreen trees bunched close to power lines.

“When I see the ice building upon the trees, the thought to me is ‘oh no’ because I think of the impact it’s going to have on our customers,” Powers said. “If you’re in an area and ice is building up and accumulating and you hear that snap, there’s not a lot of warning and it comes crashing down to the ground. We do our best to stay out of those areas when ice is still accumulating.”

So far, officials said, there have been no reported injuries with their crews working this storm.

The timing of the arrival of the ice storm Saturday afternoon at first hampered restoration efforts in some areas, according to Powers, since the ice continued to accumulate into the night, causing even more outages. On top of that timing, Power said the geographical scope of the worst damage contributed to restoration efforts.

“This is one of the toughest ones we’ve had in recent history. When you think about a tornado, you got devastation, but it’s in a small area. In this case, you got such a large area that was impacted, 290,000 customers [statewide] at some point were impacted by this ice storm,” Powers said.

The crew on Church Road was called into the region from Virginia Beach. Electric utility contract truck from a company based in Maine was also seen working on Monday.

Powers said crews have worked long, cold days trying to restore power.

“We’ve got crews from all over. Basically, from Dominion Energy, we brought in all the crews from the areas that weren’t impacted and brought them into the areas that were, and we’ll keep condensing down those areas. If we get this section on, if there’s an area that needs it, we’ll condense it down. So, we’re bringing in a whole army of people,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon, it was looking like a third straight cold night using their gas fireplace and drinking stovetop hot chocolate for Nicole Wilson and her family.

“Everything is a little stressful. This on top of that,” she said pointing at her mask. “It took people a while to be like I guess we’re not getting it back in four hours.”

“We had game night in the dark last night. I mean we try to find the best in it, as best you can do!” she said.

You can always report an outage to Dominion here.