Downed power lines spark concern for homeowners

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – After Wednesday night’s storm knocked down power lines across central Indiana, some homeowners are wondering if the lines should be put underground to reduce danger.

Indianapolis Power & Light Company told 24-Hour News 8 that at the height of Wednesday’s storms, they had 11,000 customers without power. Duke Energy had another 5,600.

Homeowners that 24-Hour News 8 spoke with said they don’t really notice the power lines until something goes wrong.

On Wednesday night, lighting struck a line in a north side neighborhood off Misty Lake Circle. The lines were live when they fell down.

IPL’s crews had a busy morning on Indy’s north side, as did their tree-trimming colleagues who were trying to clean up the mess Wednesday’s storm left behind.

“I think it was approximately 1:30 a.m. that the power went out,” said neighbor Dean Schleppi.

It wasn’t a shock to Schleppi, not when you live in a neighborhood where most of the backyards feature power lines tangled in tree limbs.

“This hasn’t been the first time we’ve had power outages, which I worry about,” he said.

IPL crews said a lightning strike hit a line behind a home. The downed lines were live, which caused burn spots on the ground.

“There are some things that you can’t prevent, but we can do our best to minimize is the impact of those trees and the tree limbs have on our customers’ service,” said Brandi Davis-Handy, IPL Spokesperson.

IPL has contracts with tree trimming companies year round to clear brush around their lines.

Other times, they’re called out after right after a storm.

However, homeowners like Schleppi wonder if it would be easier to just put the lines underground rather than constantly having to maintain their surroundings and repair them.

“It’s definitely a concern that we hear a lot. So some people say ‘you know what, I have a friend down the street, their lines are underground,’” Davis-Handy said.

“That would be preferred, yes. But to do that, I’m not sure what the infrastructure would entail,” said Schleppi.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, underground power lines are safe from wind, ice storms, and tree branches, many of the reasons power lines get knocked down.

New neighborhoods and properties typically have the lines already buried.

24-Hour News 8 visited a neighborhood on the north side where the lines weave through people’s backyards. We asked IPL if it would be easier to put the lines underground. They said the process is too expensive and costs significantly more than just maintaining and repairing them.

“This is a time where with all of the new environmental regulations and the changes that we have, not just at IPL, but in our industry, our customers right now are seeing those electricity bills go up a bit,” said Davis-Handy. “So we want to make sure that we can do everything that we can to make sure that those monthly bills are manageable.”

The EIA said installing new underground lines can be five to ten times more expensive than above ground. It costs even more when you dismantle overheard lines to put them in the ground.

However, that doesn’t mean IPL won’t consider it. The company has moved lines underground in the past and it just needs homeowners to contact them if they feel it’s necessary, and you can do so by calling IPL at (317) 261-8111.

You can also call that number if you feel the tree limbs near the lines are growing dangerously close.

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