The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 15, 2013

Ice leads to outages

City Council OKs tax break on preparedness items


The News Courier



By Jean Cole

and Rebecca Croomes

The News Courier

As freezing rain continued to effect the Tennessee Valley Tuesday, residents were taking stock of damage done only the night before.

Amy Golden of Athens Utilities said a total of 28 outages began Monday afternoon and lasted until early Tuesday morning.

“It was one small thing right after another,” Golden said. “A steady stream of cleanup for the crews. No major problems, just very busy linemen.”

Crews worked from 3:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. to restore electricity to hundreds of Limestone County residents; the largest outage affected more than 670 customers for two hours. While the shortest outage left one customer without power for 19 minutes, it took an hour or more to fix other power lines weighed down by ice-laden trees. Golden said the biggest factor was breaker boxes at every substation were made to open because of the icy rain.

“Our crews did a fabulous job of handling that many outages in the time that they did,” Golden said.

Athens Utilities is now on Twitter and Facebook, a move that Golden said helped her coordinate efforts to restore power to isolated areas. Customers can turn to social media during outages to check which locations are reporting loss, because Golden said she would be monitoring the Internet to communicate with the public.

For all the good things social media can do though, Golden advised customers that the preferred way to report an outage is not calling the EMA, sheriff’s office or police department, or trying to report through Facebook and Twitter, but by calling Athens Utilities at 256-232-1440.

As ice triggered power outages and rain inundated creeks and ditches Monday night in Athens, City Council members were busy approving an upcoming sales-tax holiday on severe-weather supplies.

Weather preparedness

The second-annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday will be held from noon Friday, Feb. 22, through midnight Sunday, Feb. 24. The holiday is designed to help residents stock up on a variety of supplies for protecting their homes or businesses during Alabama’s tornado and hurricane seasons. On those two days, state, county and local sales and use taxes will be exempt on storm-related items.

“People could use flashlights and other supplies on a night like this,” Council President Harold Wales said Monday as city officials, worried about icing roads, tried to swiftly wrap up their meeting.

Both the Limestone County Commission and the state of Alabama had already approved the tax holiday.

The Alabama Department of Revenue will compile a listing of all cities and counties participating in the 2013 Severe Weather Preparedness Tax Holiday as well as a list of items that qualify for tax-free status. To see the lists, go online to http://www.revenue.alabama.gov/salestax/WPSalesTaxHol.htm.

The following list contains examples of items covered under the Severe Weather Preparedness Holiday:

$60 or less

• Batteries:  AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt and 9-volt batteries.  (Coin batteries, automobile batteries, and boat batteries are not exempt.)

• Cellular telephone batteries;

• Cellular phone chargers;

• Portable self-powered or battery-powered radios, two-way radios, weather-band radios or NOAA weather radios;

• Portable self-powered light sources, including battery-powered flashlights, lanterns or emergency glow sticks;

• Tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths and other flexible, waterproof sheeting;

• Ground anchor systems, such as bungee cords or rope, or tie-down kits;

• Duct tape;

• Plywood, window film or other materials specifically designed to protect window coverings;

• Non-electric food-storage coolers or water-storage containers;

• Non-electric can openers;

• Artificial ice, blue ice, ice packs and reusable ice;

• Self-contained first-aid kits;

• Fire extinguishers;

• Smoke detectors;

• Carbon monoxide detectors;

• Gas or diesel fuel tanks or containers.

$1,000 or less

• Portable generators and power cords