Tree Trimming Helps CPU Reduce Outages and Improve Reliability

Vegetation management is part of utility’s robust preventive maintenance program

CLARKSDALE - Tree-lined streets are part of Clarkdale’s beauty and charm, but trees also pose problems and even hazards when they grow too close to power lines. That’s why Clarksdale Public Utilities conducts tree-trimming operations year-round to keep electricity flowing safely and reliably to customers’ homes and businesses.

“Tree trimming is part of our preventive maintenance program to help identify problems before they become serious issues,” said Paul Robertson, foreman of CPU’s electric distribution department. “The end game is improved system reliability. Anything we can do to get ahead of an outage is our goal, and tree trimming is a proven strategy to reduce service interruptions.”

Routine trimming also helps control another serious threat to service: squirrels. Their climbing and scampering on power lines may seem harmless, but squirrels are a leading cause of outages, along with falling branches and lightning.

“Squirrels are attracted to the heat generated by lines and equipment,” Robertson said. “The loud ‘boom’ you hear when a transformer goes out is usually caused by a squirrel. Cutting back trees reduces their access to power lines and electrical equipment and helps prevent outages.”

Robertson noted that in the first quarter of 2018, CPU logged 26 service interruptions ranging from short “blinks” to power outages. During the same period this year, interruptions fell by half to 13 — a major reduction that he credits to enhanced tree-trimming and preventive-maintenance activities.

CPU maintains around 105 miles of distribution line and 24 miles of transmission line. Because most outages are weather-related, CPU conducts monthly line patrols as part of its inclement weather program. In addition to cutting back limbs from power lines, crews can pinpoint malfunctioning or outdated equipment and rotten poles and initiate repairs and replacements.

Line crews look for problem areas — also known as “hot-spotting” — as part of their daily routines and have chainsaws on hand to cut back vegetation during service calls. For large tree trimming and clearing operations, CPU has found that it’s more efficient and cost-effective to use contractor crews.

“When our linemen have work orders, tree trimming is often necessary to complete jobs. It’s something we do all year long,” Robertson said. “Contractors do bigger projects and are assigned to areas that require significant work to protect power lines. They’re typically cutting back at least 15 feet or more of growth.”

Patrols also help line crews identify and replace damaged service lines that connect customers’ homes to transformers. CPU maintains a 15-foot easement around distribution lines and a two-foot radius around service wires.

Robertson noted that CPU does not cut or trim trees on private property. If a homeowner wants to cut down a tree in the path of a service wire, linemen will disconnect the wire so cutting can proceed safely and reconnect the wire once the job is completed.

“Preventive maintenance and reliability go hand in hand,” Robertson said. “Every day we’re working to keep Clarksdale’s power-delivery system in top operating condition, and tree trimming plays a big part in our efforts. It helps us keep the lights on for our customers and prevent interruptions to their service.”

CPU reminds customers to stay away from downed power lines and always practice situational awareness when working near power lines and electrical equipment. CPU’s spring safety announcement includes several tips to help customers stay safe and avoid injuries and accidents while working outdoors.

Clarksdale Public Utilities is a municipally owned utility serving approximately 6,500 homes and businesses in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Its mission is to safely provide sustainable electric, water and wastewater services in a reliable and courteous manner by well-trained team members, committed to top quality, efficient operations, competitive rates and the vitality of the community.

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For more than 125 years, Clarksdale Public Utilities has supplied utility services that support our community’s growth, vibrance and quality of life. But we are more than a provider of reliable and affordable electric, water and wastewater services — we are your family, friends and neighbors. We are people who care. We are CPU.

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