Explained: Why Your Neighbors Get Power Back First

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This week’s ice storm left more than 100,000 people without power in Franklin County. While 99 percent has been restored, some of your neighbors still may be in the dark. WOSU reports the possibility – or lack thereof – of a better power distribution system.

It’s been going on for years: the electricity goes out on your street and one side of the street gets back power, sometimes days, before the other side. Or maybe your neighbor never lost power.

Is there a way AEP could ensure customers on an entire street get power back all at once?

The short answer: no.

“To do what you’re suggesting or asking about would be a total reconstruction of the electricity infrastructure,” AEP spokeswoman Vikki Michalski said.

Michalski said circuits that serve customers do not go in straight lines…like, for instance, the street you live on. The circuits are broken down, she said, into sections. In between each section is a device, or fuse, that helps limit the number customers who lose power in an outage. But sometimes, as luck would have it, your house is on the wrong side of that preventive device.

“If you have a customer that’s way out on the end of the line, and there’s a device mid-way down the line, or maybe just right before their property, and everybody up to that device has service, but there’s something wrong with that device that takes their home out, those are the kinds of things that you have to find and fix. And that’s the way that works,” she said.

Michalski said the power company works to restore power to the largest groups first. And while you may start out in that group, other issues, such as severe damage to your home’s meter or transformer, could prevent you from getting electricity back with the rest of your neighbors.

“Good fences make good neighbors?” …maybe not during winter power outages especially if your neighbor is warm and cozy.