EL PASO, Texas - El Paso Electric is preparing for a hot summer ahead as the borderland begins to see triple digit temps.
El Paso electric Spokesman George De La Torre says power outages are more common during the summer than at any other time of the year. Crews began preparations during February, with what they call a "blitz.' During winter and spring months crews go to as many locations as possible and replace more than 500 pieces of equipment. De La Torre says that includes upgrades on their system and replacing older equipment like transformers, poles and wires.
De La Torre says they try to prepare for the summer, because they start to see issues with transformers. De La Torre says they overheat for two reasons: sustained heat and the large electrical usage. At night, the temps aren't cool enough and customers still use the same amount of electricity that they use during the day, causing transformers to malfunction.
"It does heat up, it's prolonged heat. It's sustained heat that we're seeing and even at night still high temperatures and the usage of that of the same electricity that's being used in that home or several homes, doesn't drop very much. So the combinations of both really causes the transformers to malfunction," De La Torre said,
De La Torre say that's why they have crews work 24/7. Their crews work different schedules beginning in May and ending in October so they can respond to outages as quickly a possible. He says the largest use of electricity in El Paso is between 4 P.M-5 P.M.
"People are usually getting home around that time, they're turning up their air conditioners, turning on televisions or different appliances, so that's when we tend to see that increase in demand," De La Torre said.
The heat wave is also affecting electric customers in Phoenix and Nevada, where flights have been canceled and outages are being reported. De La Torre says we're not alone. El Paso Electric services 411,000 customers from Van Horn, to Hatch, New Mexico and crews have to maintain thousands of transmission and distribution lines.
"What's happening with the heat wave in Nevada and Arizona also impacts us here because we're all interconnected in that area, so we're definitely always in communication with them to see what it is that's occurring with their grid so that we can maintain and keep the balance here."
De La Torre says we're seeing the same issues here and we may continue to see them with triple digit temps on the forecast.
"They're dealing with the same issues we are with the melting of fuses, transformer issues, with outages caused by animals and wildlife, maybe trying to get into shaded areas at our substations or power lines, so all of those play a factor this time of year."
De La Torre says they're keeping a close eye on their grid to avoid major outages.
"We do have oversight of our grid 24/7, we're supervising the balance and the frequency of our grid throughout the service territory to make sure there's no imbalance throughout and that we continue to keep the power on for all of our customers."
De La Torre says in the event of an outage, immediately call or go online to report it. You can track where outages are reported and how many customers are affected. De La Torre says it can take anywhere from 45-minutes to an hour to restore power. In some instances, De La Torre says it can take three hours.
"Our crews are going to do everything they can to speed that up but different issues may occur, let the customers back in, but then there's another issue that occurs after that's been fixed, or underground outages as well can take up to three hours sometimes. So it depends on what is happening and how quickly we can identify what the issue is to be able to prepare it."
De La Torre recommends checking on neighbors and heading to a cool place while crews work. He also recommends keeping an outage kit with flashlights, battery-powered radios, first aid kits. In emergencies always call 911.