Crews continue work on restoration efforts

Restoration backyard scene December 15 2021

Wednesday, Dec. 15

9:45 p.m. – OPPD crews are working late into the night to assess and begin restoration following a strong storm with high winds that moved through the area Wednesday night. Crews are approaching damage with safety top-of-mind as high winds are forecast to continue into the early morning hours.

At the peak, around 24,000 customers were without power following winds gusting to near 80 mph in the service territory. Crews are continuing to work on restoration efforts, with the number of customers out now at 14,300.

We want to remind our customers to report any power outages they are experiencing, if they have not already done so. It’s crucial that our customers report their power outages, so OPPD is aware of the location without electricity and can ensure appropriate restoration response. They can report online at OPPD.com, via the OPPD Connect app, or by calling 1-800-554-OPPD (6773).

Our crews face significant challenges in weather events. In some cases, they may have trouble reaching areas due to roadways blocked by storm debris. And oftentimes, they need to call on tree crews to untangle branches from wires before repairs can be made. Some of this work cannot be completed safely in the dark. We have “wires down” crews starting at 6 a.m. to take care of these complex repairs.

We know it’s difficult being without such an essential service as electricity, particularly overnight when temperatures begin to drop. We want to thank our customers for their patience, while our teams work to bring their power back as quickly as is safely possible.

Restoration wind December 15 2021

Restoration trucks December 15 2021

8 p.m. – As winds stir back up in some areas, OPPD crews continue to work to restore power. About 16,200 customers are without power.

Parts of southeast Nebraska and east central Nebraska are experiencing periods of blowing dust, which is causing reduced visibility, according to the National Weather Service.  The dust, along with strong winds, can make travel hazardous.

Periods of strong winds are expected to continue to occur overnight, so outage numbers could continue to fluctuate.

If you should experience an outage,  you can report it on our website, from the OPPD Connect app that you can download on your phone, or by calling 1-800-554-OPPD.

Gusts up to 60 mph are possible, which could cause localized damage.

A high wind warning remains in effect until 9 p.m.

Restoration 2 December 15 2021

6:15 p.m. – The threat of tornadic storms has passed in OPPD’s service area, but a high wind warning remains in effect until 9 p.m.

Very strong winds are possible under that warning. Those winds could cause power outages and damage to structures, and could make travel dangerous.

Periods of strong winds are expected to continue tonight, with gusts up to 55 mph possible in areas.

If you should experience an outage,  you can report it on our website, from the OPPD Connect app that you can download on your phone, or by calling 1-800-554-OPPD.

5:45 p.m. – OPPD crews are assessing the damage from this afternoon’s storm. About 19,600 customers are currently without power.

Crew and customer safety are top priorities for OPPD during restoration efforts, so we ask the public to be patient as we work through the restoration process.

If you should come across downed power lines, please assume they are live and stay at least 30 feet away from them. Please report downed lines to OPPD. at 1-800-554-6773.

5:15 p.m. – About 24,000 customers are without power after a powerful storm pushed through OPPD’s service territory this afternoon.

Strong winds are forecast to continue into the evening, and outage numbers could continue to climb.

If you’re experiencing an outage, you can report it on our website, from the OPPD Connect app that you can download on your phone, or by calling 1-800-554-OPPD.

4:45 p.m. – A fast-moving storm system hit much of the OPPD service territory late Wednesday afternoon causing more than 19,000 customer outages. The storm swept through as fast as it approached with winds reported between 75 and 80 mph and even more than 90 mph west of Omaha.

Those outage numbers could continue to climb as more people report their outages. The storm system impacted both distribution and transmission lines and customers could continue to see lights flicker through the evening as a result.

There were reports of several tornadoes touching down around the service territory though no damage reports are yet available. Strong winds are expected to continue even though this storm system has passed through.

Crew and customer safety are top priorities for OPPD during restoration efforts so we ask people to be patient as we work through our outage restoration.

4:15 p.m. – The storm system is now moving through the Omaha metro area with winds in excess of 80 mph, according to various weather reports. There are now more than 8,000 customers without power scattered throughout the OPPD service territory with a number of circuits being locked out due to the storms. The majority of those outages are in Douglas, Saunders and Cass Counties.

More outages will be reported as the storm blows through.

Emergency sirens have been sounding numerous times in various areas and it is important to seek shelter each time you hear those sirens as they represent an immediate threat each time they sound.

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3:45 p.m. – Reports of a storm front with extremely high winds – 80 to 90 mph – have been reported to the west of Omaha and are quickly approaching the metro area. Tornado sirens have been sounding in various areas and people should be taking shelter if they are in those areas.

With winds of this magnitude, power outages are likely and we are starting to see those outages across our service territory. More than 1,000 customers are currently without power. Safety of customers and crews remain the highest priority for OPPD.

1:55 p.m. – Power has been restored to customers near Elmwood and Murdock. The outage was caused by vegetation on overhead wires.

Much of the OPPD service area is now under a tornado watch as winds continue to push in from the south and southwest. Be prepared to take shelter, as weather conditions could change rapidly this afternoon into this evening.

12:50 p.m. – Crews are responding to an outage near Elmwood and Murdock, south of the metro area Wednesday afternoon. The outage is impacting about 700 customers  and was reported about 12:30 p.m.

Crews are mobilized and ready to respond to any outages that may arise out of this afternoon’s expected wind and thunderstorm event. The unique weather event is expected to last until about 10 p.m., with the worst conditions around the afternoon commute.

When outages happen, traffic lights can also be impacted so drivers are advised to be cautious and aware of any flashing traffic lights or even lights that are without power.

Today’s storm and wind event will be fast developing and people may need to seek shelter. Since storms can be moving at 60 to 80 mph, there won’t be much advance notice of when to seek safe shelter.

10:30 a.m. – The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting a very rare and potentially dangerous weather event for the OPPD service territory. Extremely high winds – sustained at 60 mph or more and gust of 80 mph or more – are expected to hit the area early this afternoon and could last until later tonight. Thunderstorms and even tornadoes are possible with this storm event.

With this weather threat, the possibility of power outages, along with hazardous travel and building structure damage, is high. The NWS is calling this an unprecedented event, only comparable to a similar wind storm on Christmas 2016 where there were 80 mph winds.

There is also a high risk of wildfires developing due to dry conditions. People are asked to secure decorations, trampolines or any other items that could become airborne projectiles that could also cause damage to power lines or others. Be aware of any downed lines and assume they are live; stay at least 30 feet away from any downed lines.

You can report power outages by visiting our website, from the OPPD Connect app that you can download on your phone, or by calling 1-800-554-OPPD.

Crews are ready to respond to any outages, but will not be able to do so until dangerous conditions subside. NWS is reminding people to be prepared to seek shelter much sooner than under typical spring storm conditions as these storms will be incredibly fast moving and will leave little time for preparation. This weather event is expected to impact multiple states in the Southwest through the Upper Plains states.

Some tips for customers to prepare for the storm:

  • Make a disaster preparation kit with necessities like water and nonperishable food, medication, a battery-operated radio if you have one, and extra shoes – in case you aren’t wearing them when the storm hits and you need to be able to walk through debris.
  • Keep this kit in a basement or shelter location.
  • Make sure to have flashlights and batteries ready and easy to grab.
  • Charge up all your laptops and cellphones ahead of the storm.

 

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.