Tower Industry Plans, Prepares for Mid-Atlantic Snowstorm

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WASHINGTON, DC — By midday yesterday, an estimated 80 million Americans along the mid-Atlantic coast from Virginia to New York were scrambling to prepare for National Weather Service-forecasted storm expected to last 36 hours over Friday and Saturday. It could dump two feet or more of snow and bring single-digit temperatures and howling winds. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was already rattled by the Wednesday evening snow “dusting” that covered city streets with an inch of ice causing hundreds of accidents, may have gotten ahead of herself by noon when she told NPR the coming snow was already “an historic storm” as her planners prepared the city. Even local electric company PEPCO robo-called customers to warn them to “prepare for the storm, report outages and stay clear of downed wires and stay clear of working repair crews.”

But down in Boca Raton, FL. where it was 71 degrees and partly cloudy on Thursday afternoon, Bernard Borghei was calm and collected.  As head of operations for Vertical Bridge, the fast growing owner/manager of more than 42,000 tower sites, he’d already addressed the snowstorm and any other upcoming natural disasters that haven’t made it to the radar screen yet. “We have a procedure plan in place and the first thing is ‘safety first,’” Borghei told Inside Towers. He then clicked off the plan’s points with the precision of a U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor, each step of the logistical plan considered. “We tell our people not to go into the site if there is any possibility of danger. If equipment has fallen down, we first contact local authorities – police and fire – and send out our maintenance vendors who will then tell us when the area can be accessed. We also contact the landlord” when there is one. Vertical Bridge also has contracts with snow removal vendors who clear the road to the site whenever a few inches fall so maintenance and repair teams have safe passage to towers, transmitters and generators. And, added Borghei, all tower sites are prepped at the beginning of the season – storm, rain, hurricane, etc. – so generators will work when needed.

When storms strike towers there are almost always some sort of failure. A power failure or a lighting failure. From his two monitoring posts in San Antonio and Austin, Remote Monitoring Services’ Art Stone knows about it almost immediately. “We’ve got redundant phone lines and redundant Internet from both of our facilities to the sites. And with the on-coming mid-Atlantic storm just hours away, Stone is confident that there will be power and lighting outages. There always are, he tells Inside Towers, from snowstorms, thunderstorms and high winds. But the Texas company is always watching to make sure the towers’ lights are bright and the power is on. He adds, “It’s just about impossible to knock out our monitoring.” And that’s good because tower owners whose sticks 200 feet and higher must be lit and if the lights go out, the Federal Aviation Administration must be notified within 30 minutes so brave, low flying pilots flying in the area are aware.

Stone estimates Remote Monitoring Services watches roughly 100 towers that are 200 feet and taller in the mid-Atlantic where snow is expected and he figures there are roughly another 1,000 towers that tall in the region. Of course, there are thousands of towers of various heights in the region that could be affected this weekend.

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January 22, 2016 |
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