The May 20 severe storm, which at one point had 8,500 of the Hannibal Board of Public Works’ 9,000 customers in the dark, has prompted a discussion about putting more of the city’s power lines underground.
Robert Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, raised the issue during the BPW Board’s meeting earlier this month.
“We had a good starting discussion about starting to put some lines underground. I think that’s a very positive move,” he said. “We’re going to be moving in that direction. We’ll have a better system for it one of these days.”
Currently, 97 percent of Hannibal’s electric service lines are above ground.
It is estimated that the cost could reach between $600,000 and $700,000 for the materials and manpower that were necessary to restore service following last month’s powerful storm that packed winds of above 100 mph in some spots.
“We’ll be spending $600,000 again some day,” said Randy Park of the BPW Board.
Board member Bud Janes called the May storm a “wake-up call” regarding the relocation of power lines below ground in Hannibal.
The process of putting power lines underground won’t begin overnight.
“We’re going to start with a board policy that essentially says that everything new from some point forward is going underground, no matter what. Then we may say things like, ‘after a certain date if it falls down it’s going underground,’ or if we have to revise a circuit to accommodate something new like an intersection for a new factory, it goes underground. We’ll find reasons every year to move more underground,” said Stevenson, who estimated the policy-writing process alone could take between three and four months.
One of the first power lines likely to go underground runs along River Road to the railroad bridge. Power poles there were brought down by a landslide following the storm. It was not the first time that the River Road power lines had fallen victim to landslides.
“We’re not putting it (River Road power lines) back on poles. Period,” said Stevenson. “That particular underground will pay for itself the next time the hill slides down.”
Another chunk of the hillside overlooking River Road came down Sunday.