July 30, 2014

Weather Service brings tool for predicting ice storm outages to Missouri

The National Weather Service offices that serve Missouri are going to try out an index to help predict power outages due to ice storms.

The index could be used to help prepare Missourians when ice storms, like this one that hit Springfield in 2007, are coming. (Photo courtesy: National Weather Service.)

The Sperry Piltz Ice Accrual Index takes into account temperatures and wind speed to predict ice accumulation.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Andy Bailey at the Kansas City area Weather Service Office says information from the index will be added to forecasts to help Missourians prepare when outages are possible.

“If it’s one of these deals that it’s going to be a relatively quick and benign ice storm and it’s going to do little more than make the road slick for a while, people can prepare accordingly, but if it’s one of these catastrophic-type storms that is going to have widespread, regional impacts that last several weeks, certainly the actions they take to prepare for that should be different.”

Bailey says the index has been used in Oklahoma for several years and the electric distribution infrastructure there is considered comparable to that in Missouri.

The Sperry Piltz Ice Accrual Index parameters

“Strength of the lines and the condition of the poles, age of the poles. Certainly when you go out around the state of Missouri there’s everything from brand new utilities poles to poles that are probably 20 years old and relatively weak. This is more for the average, middle of the road setup.”

Bailey says the index would allow the Weather Service to replace what have been “generic” statements about possible power outages with better predictions to help Missourians prepare.

“Thinks like … they may need to go get cash … there won’t be power at gas stations, there won’t be power at banks, your debit card may not work and the only thing that may work to do things like buy gasoline or groceries, you may need cash. With this, people could understand that they may be without power for quite a while and they may need to stock up on cash.”

Missouri has been hit by devastating ice storms before, including one in January, 2007 that left more than 200,000 people without power.