Trees: The root of the problem?

Feb 4, 2009 at 6:00 am

There’s not much science behind how much ice a power line will hold before it falls. That’s because lines come in all different shapes, sizes and gauges, so there’s no standard — when ice like this comes, you just hope for the best.

According to E.ON. U.S.’s Keith McBride and Darryl Evans, whom LEO Weekly found fixing downed lines at the corner of Norris Place and Eastern Parkway on Friday, it depends more on the age and condition of the line than anything.

And, as we know, power lines seem to suffer most when massive old-growth trees fall under the weight of a thick layer of ice and tear them down, off, out — generally do them serious harm. There were 12,000-plus downed lines reported between last Tuesday and this one.

Falling trees have been more rare than you might expect, says Chris O’Bryan, owner and operator of Limbwalker Tree Service Inc. His company is pruning damaged and broken ends off trees that have drooped or cracked under the weight of the ice.

“An ice storm is peculiar because, first of all, nothing you can do pruning-wise can prevent the damage, and the damage is related to the amount of surface area on the trees,” O’Bryan says.

LG&E regularly trims trees to keep branches off power lines. However, spokesman Chip Keeling says, there’s really no way to prepare for damage this extensive.

As for any lessons learned from the storm, O’Bryan says he hopes people won’t make hasty decisions about chopping down trees. “The more times people pay out costs for their trees, the more likely they are to see their trees as a liability rather than an asset,” he says.