The days (and nights) the lights went out in LS

Over. And over. And over…

I usually don’t think much on the rare occasion I return home from work or an out-of-town trip and see a few clocks blinking in my home. Hey, lights go out. Circuits break. Squirrels get into the lines. Stuff happens. I get it.


Commentary


If what has been happening in seemingly every corner of Lee’s Summit seems abnormal, however, that’s because it probably is. At least for our part of the country.

Lights are dimming. Blackouts are happening at all hours of the day and night. And it is starting to affect our schools, our safety and our businesses. And that Kansas City Power & Light isn’t answering questions in a more immediate and social-media-friendly way is a little disappointing.

To their credit, KCPL Manager of Communications Gina Penzig was receptive and timely to returning calls on the topic. It can be obviously aggravating to deal with this time and time again with little or no answers.

That is especially true when our lives are disrupted by the early release of a high school (Lee’s Summit High), accidents on Missouri 291 that were likely the result of stoplights being out for an extended period of time this past Tuesday and entire lunch hours wiped out at local restaurants because of an outage on a sunny day.

Penzig said the outages were due to “energy, quality and reliability problems in that area.”

Over the previous weekend, she noted, maintenance work was ongoing with some of the circuits that feed the Lee’s Summit area. That work was completed Monday. However, a circuit was de-energized while they made repairs, which put additional strain on other circuits, which caused the extended outage on Tuesday. That outage stretched from Chipman and NW Main through downtown Lee’s Summit, hopped 291 to the east and south to Lee’s Summit High School.

Penzig noted the two outages were unrelated and that Tuesday’s circuit failure happened directly at one of Lee’s Summit’s substations. While those are more routine, she described the circumstances over the weekend as “unusual.”

“We are aware that some customers were experiencing blinking even prior to this. The repairs were looking to address the power quality concerns,” she said.

As of Tuesday, Penzig said information that had been made available assured her the issues were resolved. But, again, stuff happens. More outages were reported in Lee’s Summit Wednesday evening in Lakewood and Thursday morning near Todd George and Langsford roads.

Penzig said cable failure in the Lakewood area near Shagbark Street caused a few dozen customers to be without power for 90 minutes; in a nearby neighborhood, a fuse melted and caused another outage that lasted an hour.

KCPL serves 1.6 million customers and outages related to equipment repair happen with regularity. What seems odd is how many days straight customers only in Lee’s Summit have tangled with the prospects of losing power for one minute, one hour, or more.

More baffling is why, on a company Facebook page with more than 20,000 followers, KCPL isn’t opening up the dialogue and communicating directly on the issue. Yes, they were answering questions placed on the page. But that’s passive communication. KCPL is compelled to get ahead of the message, control the message. Post the outages maps every single time. Even when it’s just 26 customers. Then, tell us a squirrel ate through the line or that circuits are wonky.

Penzig noted that KCPL did post two updates on Twitter (where they have less than 4,000 followers). That’s a good start, but based on the engagement, precious few people spotted those posts. With five-times the followers on Facebook, I would encourage those running the KCPL social media to consider that platform in the future.

Some good news, though, can be reported: we can confirm the Russians or the recent switch to Westar Energy had nothing to do with the outages in Lee’s Summit.

Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.