Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority
“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
That statement is attributed to the late American Novelist Sinclair Lewis, who was perhaps recalling harsh winters of his youth (he was born in Minnesota in 1885) when bitter cold and snow made daily chores much more difficult. Whether or not that was the case, one thing is certain: for many occupations, winter can be a very difficult season.
Difficulties or not, there are jobs that must be accomplished. Certainly, there are thousands of those jobs all across the area, in many different organizations, including the Grand River Dam Authority. GRDA employees working at different locations doing different tasks all face the same common bitter cold issues and, like all the rest, it is just part of the job.
For GRDA linemen, who maintain power lines and restore service when weather-related outages occur, the biggest wintertime obstacle is often the wind. When you are up in the air, working from a bucket or the side of an electric pole, or even sitting at the controls on the back of a line truck, you need the right clothing to help fend off cold and wind but clothing that will still allow you perform the job safely too.
“You can do it for a little while, and then you’ve got to get off and warm up,” said David Hefner, about operating the bucket truck during bitter winter winds. His distribution crew maintains power lines in the MidAmerica Industrial Park, where manufacturing must continue round-the-clock, no matter the weather conditions. For that reason, his crew is on call in all sorts of weather, all hours of the day.
Just down the road, at the GRDA Coal Fired Complex (CFC), the crew responsible for moving coal from the storage pile into the plant site also must work out in the worst weather conditions, at all hours of the day. After all, coal fuels the facility’s electricity production and that production also must go on 24/7.
“I’ve been out here when it has gotten so cold that the fuel [in the heavy equipment] will freeze,” said Terry Woolman, shift superintendent in the CFC Coal Yard. When that happens, Woolman said equipment use is cut in half; one piece warms up inside the shop while the other is used. That process continues until the freezing threat passes. Meanwhile, electricity production continues.
Like those who maintain power lines and fuel plant operations, the GRDA employees responsible for public safety and law enforcement are also prepared to continue on in all kinds of conditions. In fact, in January alone, the GRDA Police Department helped to rescue five different people involved in two separate boat capsizing episodes — in very cold waters — within a week.
According to GRDA Superintendent of Homeland Security Chris Carlson, the right gear makes all the difference for working on and around the water in winter weather. Officers wear coats and overalls that are wind-proof, water-proof and already equipped with flotation. “Together, it’s meant to be our life-jacket and give us the ability to dress warm,” said Carlson.
Meanwhile, if diving is necessary this time of year, officers also wear thicker dive suits — which can restrict mobility – and spend less time in the water per dive. “It’s really about planning, knowing your limitations and being respectful to those limitations,” added Carlson.
Ultimately, it is a respect for the weather and a good plan that allows these occupations to continue on during the winter season, so that GRDA can meet its mission, no matter what the thermometer shows.
Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable; electricity serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75-plus years.
— Justin Alberty
GRDA Corporate Communications Director
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