Dry conditions, extreme heat combine to create wildfire hazards
While drought conditions and wildfires have not been common in most areas across Entergy’s service territory, recent record-breaking high temperatures and ongoing severe drought conditions have created a favorable environment for wildfires.
In the case of a wildfire threat, stay aware and stay safe
Customers should always follow their local or state orders in case of an emergency and observe any statewide or partial burn bans in place. Make sure your emergency plan is in place ahead of time and prepare for any disaster in advance. Keep these things in mind as you get ready:
- A wildfire can spread very quickly, leaving you little time to get to safety.
- With wildfires, you should have plans in place in case you have to evacuate and plans for handling power outages caused by wildfires.
- If you are in an area determined to be at increased risk of wildfires, have an evacuation plan in place ahead of time.
- The American Red Cross has a comprehensive guide on preparing for the threat of wildfires in your community, including the tips listed here.
- Find other extreme heat safety tips on Storm Center.
Do your medical needs require electricity? If so, make sure you have a plan in case of a power outage. Learn how to enroll here.
Entergy closely monitors many factors that could pose a risk to wildfires – drought conditions, red flag warnings, elevation, humidity, winds, rainfall levels and weather forecasts – so that we can take proactive measures.
Those proactive measures include:
- Monitoring weather conditions, such as red flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service, and active wildfire threats across our service area.
- Coordinating with local officials and emergency response agencies.
- Patrolling power lines in high-risk areas to identify potential hazards and trim or remove vegetation where needed.
- Limiting motorized trimming in certain areas.
- Restricting work vehicles from driving on dry-grass areas, limiting their access in higher-risk areas for only essential needs and ensuring that the trucks are equipped with the tools necessary to extinguish any sparks that may occur.
- Monitoring our grid for wildfire risk and implementing appropriate safety measures.
National Weather Service issues warnings and watches
The National Weather Service will issue updates depending on the severity of the wildfire risk. Know the differences between their escalation levels:
- Red Flag Warning: Take Action. Be extremely careful with open flames. The NWS issues a Red Flag Warning, in conjunction with land management agencies, to alert land managers to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern. NWS issues a Red Flag Warning when fire conditions are ongoing or expected to occur shortly.
- Fire Weather Watch: Be Prepared. A Watch alerts land managers and the public that upcoming weather conditions could result in extensive wildland fire occurrence or extreme fire behavior. A watch means critical fire weather conditions are possible but not imminent or occurring.
- Extreme Fire Behavior: This alert implies a wildfire may rage of out of control. It is often hard to predict these fires because they behave erratically, sometimes dangerously.
We ramp up support when wildfire conditions present
Monitoring weather threats is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year job. Our teams have a proven plan of continuous preparation, planning and training. As extreme weather conditions – such as wildfires – threaten, we monitor, mobilize and act. Our emergency planning and response teams have expertise in the areas of fire risk engineering, fire suppression, and fire prevention and include meteorologists, experienced foresters and vegetation management professionals in the specific regions we serve.
In order to ensure that we are up-to-date on potential hazardous conditions that could impact our service territory, we obtain information from a number of different organizations such as the U.S. Drought Monitor (interdisciplinary initiative involving the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Drought Mitigation Center), National Weather Service, and National Interagency Coordination Center (U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Fire Administration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters, NOAA, and National Park Service).
Facility inspections, vegetation management, tree trimming
All year long, we monitor the potential for wildfire danger. We routinely inspect our facilities for proper fire prevention and protection adherence. We perform “sky to ground" vegetation trimming on targeted sections of line, which removes tree limbs that would normally have been above or near the power lines. And we use computer modeling to help predict when trimming may be needed and assess the landscape from many angles – from the ground, overhead and by using satellites to help monitor growth rate, for example.
Protecting your safety is always paramount
Safeguarding those living and working in communities that could be affected by a wildfire is paramount. As with other types of potential emergencies, wildfire threats may require Entergy to temporarily de-energize our power lines to protect lives, property and equipment.
There could be an active wildfire nearby our equipment or power lines, and if it gets too close, we’ll need to temporarily de-energize that portion of the grid to ensure public safety. Public safety officials could request this be done. We may also need to de-energize lines in an area when there’s not an active fire but where a severe threat of fire exists. The decision to do so is based on a number of weather-driven factors, such as red flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service, windspeed, humidity levels and on-the-ground inspections.
The decision to de-energize power lines is always done as a last resort, but it is sometimes a necessary inconvenience to reduce the risks associated with a wildfire.
We restore power carefully and cautiously when it is safe to do so
Depending on the circumstance and threat of the wildfire, restoration timelines will vary:
- De-energizing one or more distribution lines: These are the lower voltage lines that run throughout cities and neighborhoods and serve most customers. If power is taken offline, only those customers served by the de-energized lines will be affected, and power typically can be restored quickly after the danger passes (assuming the lines are not damaged).
- De-energizing one or more transmission lines: These are the higher voltage lines that run through some parts of cities and in more rural sections of our service area. These powerlines transmit electricity to distribution lines and provide service to larger geographic areas. If a transmission line is de-energized, then a larger number of customers may be affected because the impacted area may be far reaching depending on how the grid is configured. It also could take more time to restore power to transmission lines.
- Bulk electric system: Our high voltage transmission grid can be compared to an “interstate highway” of electricity delivery that interconnects across the country. We must carefully balance demand for electricity with the supply. If multiple transmission lines are de-energized to safeguard the public from a wildfire threat, the “interstate” cannot transmit electricity. When the balance of supply and demand of electricity isn’t met, we may have to temporarily turn power off for additional customers. Entergy’s grid is managed by our reliability coordinator Midcontinent Independent System Operator. If there is a power shortfall, we will work with MISO to minimize the impact on our customers and keep them informed throughout the process.
If multiple electric lines are de-energized for safety purposes, we must work carefully and cautiously to avoid overloading our grid by restoring power to everyone at the same time:
- When an outage occurs, restoring all the customers on a given feeder (power conductor line) has the potential to create large, instantaneous power demands.
- And that power demand could be higher than the built-in protective devices on a line can handle, meaning equipment could trip offline or cause more damage.
- Rather than simply energizing an entire power line all at once, we must bring customers back online one section at a time to ensure public safety and avoid damage to the power grid.
- During extreme temperature, hot or cold, customers tend to use a lot of electricity, either keeping the heat or air conditioning on or other devices running.
- And when power is disrupted, many customers leave their HVAC systems and appliances turned on, creating too much energy demand all at once when we try to restore power.
- We have devices in place that are designed to protect our system during times of normal, day-to-day operations and power demand and most weather and other contingencies.
- But during weather extremes, we must change our processes to make sure we protect our system and also do the right thing by our customers. That means restoring power in a way that best ensures safety and reliability for them as well as our employees.
When using a portable generator, do so safely, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your generator.
Call 1-800-9OUTAGE (1-800-968-8243) to report downed power lines