KCPL Learned from the ’02 Ice Storm

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Ten years ago this week, most of the Kansas City was in the dark, literally. A huge ice storm left many people without electricity. Some for as long as a week.

The storm caused one of the biggest power outages in Kansas City's history. Now, KCPL says it continues to make changes to improve its service and make it harder for its electrical distribution system to be taken down by mother nature.

"Back in 2002, I believe we had some of the most patient customers in the country," said KCPL employee Bill Herdegen.

Bill Herdegen had only worked for KCPL for three months when a January storm coated the metro are with up to two inches of ice. The ice storm toppled trees and snapped power lines leaving more than 400,000 customers without electricity for several days.

One of the biggest problems initially was to figure out how to let customers living in the dark know when help was coming.

"One of the big items we saw was just the ability to be able to communicate with customers better," Herdegen said. "If you remember back then, internet was kinda still new. So, we were trying to figure out when you have 2/3 of your customers out of service how do we help communicate with them about where we were going to be working."

Hand drawn maps posted on the company's website attracted 3,500 viewers the first day despite the outage. Now the utility company's power watch map is a direct result of the ice storm. It offers real time information on every outage KCPL has.

Herdegen says history shows him we generally have major storms once every ten years. He believes we're due for another and says the company continues to improve its system.

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