COLUMBUS, Ohio — The day before a strong storm hit on June 13, leaving 150,000 AEP Ohio customers without power, a member of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio sent a letter to the company warning them about bad weather approaching.
In an internal email obtained by 10TV dated June 13, the member of the PUCO asked "There looks to be some pending storm activity possibly coming our way. Could you please check to and see if AES (meaning AEP) has pre-positioned any restorations assets?
The next day an AEP employee responded at 8:25 a.m. saying, "AEP did not have pre-positioned restoration assets. Currently we have approximately 160,000 customers out."
Restorations assets are field crews who are dispatched in areas of the city so they can respond to an outage.
AEP Ohio's President and CEO Mark Reitter was asked about the emails following his testimony before the PUCO.
The company was questioned about how it handled the power outages that followed and what can be done in the future to prevent another forced outage.
"We do pre-stage when we see major events come through. This one, just like any storm sometimes, they break up sometimes. They don't when you pre-stage. It costs customers too. I don't know if we pre-staged, but we did act quickly.
When shown an email from an AEP Ohio employee who said the company did not have any pre-restoration assets, Reitter said he was not sure if she was qualified to make that statement
PUCO is investigating AEP's response to the storm and plans to issue a report in several weeks.
AEP executives testified that it was given just five minutes to act to shut off the power from PJM, the company that manages the electrical grid.
AEP said had it not acted, it would have been catastrophic leaving more people without power and for a longer time.
The power company said a majority of those who lost power came from the forced outage, not the storm.
AEP said the storm produced straight-line winds that were 80 to 90 mph as well as three tornados with winds as high as 105 mph.
The storm was followed by near-record temperatures on June 14 and 15.
When asked why some neighborhoods lost power while others did not, AEP said the decision was based on specific circuits.
The company admitted that it needs to do a better job in terms of trimming vegetation around power lines and it's looking at improving its alert system to warm people to reduce energy or that a storm is coming.
AEP said only 170,000 are signed up for its AEP alerts which is about 14% of its customers.
You can see the slide presentation AEP used to show the damage and how it responded to the storm here.