We hear you — and understand you’ve been frustrated by last week’s emergency forced power outages. We’d like to share more information about what happened and how our team responded when the power went out.
What Happened: Behind-the-Scenes
Severe storms early last week caused significant damage to high-voltage transmission lines that feed power to the Columbus area. Think of these as the electricity superhighway that brings large amounts of electricity long distances to communities. This storm damage meant there were fewer transmission power lines available to carry electricity to customers, closing many lanes on this superhighway.
As temperatures climbed into the 90s and demand for energy grew, some transmission power lines quickly became overloaded, requiring immediate emergency forced outages for those served by those lines. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to notify customers as this was an emergency action that had to happen in real-time to protect the electric grid and prevent potentially longer, more widespread outages in your community and beyond. In other words, the backroads became jammed with traffic and were forced to close to avoid gridlock.
The homes and businesses that experienced the emergency outages were the ones served by overloaded transmission lines and were located throughout various parts of the city. The outages were not directed to particular communities but were caused by the grid conditions created by the storms and hot weather. Communities affected included Clintonville, Columbus (northeast, parts of westside and southside), Easton, Gahanna, Galloway, German Village, Grove City, Hilliard, Hungarian Village, Linden, Merion Village, Upper Arlington, Westerville, Worthington.
The map and timeline below show the progression of the emergency forced outages on June 14 and 15 as a result of this severe storm damage.
Timeline of Customers Impacted, 6/14 – 6/15
We understand you may be concerned about the potential for future power outages during the hot summer. Our transmission grid is planned, designed and built with redundancy and hardening to handle extreme temperatures. A unique set of circumstances led to the emergency forced outages – a powerful Derecho that caused significant damage combined with record temperatures.
We’re committed to a reliable and resilient grid for all customers. While we can’t guarantee there won’t be outages, our crews are ready to respond and provide safe and timely restoration of service.
Please know, we’re working with our regulators, legislators and customers to determine how we can provide better service and more information during rare events like this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions. If you have other questions or want to connect, please reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-672-2231.
Why did AEP have to turn off my power?
Using emergency forced outages is something that electric companies do in emergency situations to reduce the risk of large scale outages to the electric grid. This action is always a last resort as we understand the impact and challenges to our customers who lose power.
There are a number of situations that can result in emergency forced outages. In this case, the electric transmission lines in specific areas of the AEP system were overloaded during the extreme heat as a result of other lines being out of service due to storm damage. Similar to kinking a garden hose and leaving the water on, if there is enough water pressure and the kink is strong enough, the hose could burst. If emergency actions were not taken, the lines could overload to the point of failure, causing catastrophic damage to the system as well as more widespread and extended customer outages.
How does AEP decide what customers to disconnect?
The homes and businesses that experienced the emergency outages were the ones served by overloaded transmission lines and were located throughout various parts of the city. The outages were not directed to particular communities but were caused by the grid conditions created by the storms and hot weather.
Why didn’t you tell customers they were going to be disconnected so they could prepare?
Unfortunately, there was not enough time to notify customers before taking the necessary actions to protect the grid on Tuesday, June 14. A complex computerized system managed by a team of highly skilled and certified professionals monitors, controls and analyzes the power grid every second of every day. At times, they must react to situations quickly to protect the system. Taking customers offline is always a last resort, but sometimes it is the only option available to preserve the power grid and prevent widespread damage and longer outages.
Why can’t AEP use rolling blackouts to address this issue?
There are some situations when outages can be rotated among different groups of customers. In this case, the affected transmission lines could not be brought back online until other lines that fed into the area were repaired from storm damage and returned to service. This eliminated the ability to rotate outages from one area to another. We worked around the clock to restore the damaged lines and get power back on to every customer.
Why were outages necessary in Columbus when the storms didn’t cause damage to power lines there?
During the June 13 storms, high winds caused severe damage to high-voltage transmission lines delivering power into the Columbus area. Power from these lines was automatically transferred to several other transmission lines to keep power flowing. On June 14, the hot weather conditions increased power demands, and the transmission lines that were still in service after the storm became overloaded. Power had to be taken off the overloaded transmission lines to prevent catastrophic failure of the larger grid.
Will this happen every time it gets hot?
We understand that customers are concerned about the potential for future power outages during the hot summer. Our transmission grid is planned, designed and built with redundancy and hardening to handle extreme temperatures. A unique set of circumstances led to the emergency forced outages – a powerful storm that caused significant damage combined with record temperatures.
We are committed to a reliable and resilient grid for all customers. Repairs have now been made to the damage caused by this Derecho storm. While we cannot guarantee that there will not be outages, our crews are ready to respond and provide safe and timely restoration of service.
Why didn’t I see workers in my community fixing this outage?
The storm damage was to the transmission system, which includes the large, high-voltage towers and lines that carry power across long distances into Columbus. These large lines feed into the local distribution system, which includes the smaller poles and wires that deliver power to homes and businesses. Those local distribution lines in Columbus were not damaged by the storm. The repairs were occurring on the larger transmission system.
On the next electric bill, will customers have to pay for the time their power was out?
No, customers do not pay for power when their electric meter is not running.