Westar did something out of the ordinary for several homes in Reno County. The company loaned families generators for the four days they would go without power.
Twelve homes still didn’t have power Monday evening in Reno County after a microburst snapped 62 poles along a 3 ½ mile stretch of Highway 50 Friday evening. Westar restored power to all homes Tuesday afternoon.
Patrick and Shane Lichti used a generator Westar loaned them. They said it powered a lot in their home.
“It's powering all of the refrigerators and the deep freeze,” Patrick Lichti said. “It's powering the water well, the sub pump, and then lights, and the water heater so we have hot water.”
The Lichtis said they don’t usually lose power because most of their power lines are below ground. But since the storm destroyed some of the main power lines, their lights flickered and then went out Friday evening. They said Westar quickly stepped up.
“By Saturday evening, they delivered generators out,” Patrick Lichti said. “They had a whole truck load and were dropping them off to the customers who needed them.”
The Director of Corporate Communications for Westar, Gina Penzig said Westar went and bought the generators for the homes.
“This has been done purely as a courtesy to these customers who are without electricity for a few days in the summer heat while we rebuild this part of the system,” Penzig said.
Since the storm, crews worked to restore power to as many homes as they could. Penzig said workers reduced the number of homes without power by a lot.
“We initially had about 2,000 customers who lost power. Some of them were along this transmission line that was affected along highway 50 about 3 ½ miles of line going down. So initially we had about 88 customers that were tied to that particular outage and we were able to do some construction work to get temporary fixtures to restore power to most of them,” Penzig said. “But we had about a dozen that we realized were looking to be without electricity until Tuesday in 100 degree heat.”
Shane Lichti said she was surprised by all of the workers out on Highway 50 all weekend. She said they worked extremely fast and were very polite to her and her husband.
“I was amazed at how many people were out here,” she said. “I didn't honestly think it would be that many people.”
Loaning out generators is not something Westar usually does. Penzig said when there are large power outages, it isn’t possible to loan out enough generators to help temporarily fix the problem.
“This isn't a typical step for us to go out and buy generators for customers. A lot of times in large storms or plenty of times if we have widespread outages, it’s not necessarily a step we can take,” Penzig said. “This really is something that we are going to have to take by a case by case basis. We're really trying to look at the unique circumstances around this particular outage and because of those circumstances, both the unfortunate that it was going to be four days in 100 degree heat, and the fortunate that it was only a handful of customers in need, we are able to take this extra step.”
The Lichtis said it’s something they are appreciating because it’s saving them money and hassle. The cost of putting gas in the generator isn’t as much as it would have been if they had to leave their home.
“It was pretty nice considering it's been 100 degrees the past couple days,” Patrick Lichti said.
“Yeah, because we were planning on staying in a hotel,” Shane Lichti added.
But even with the generator helping, the Lichtis said the situation wasn’t perfect because of the extreme heat.
“It's not quite strong enough to run the air conditioner but we're dealing with it,” Patrick Lichti said. Shane said she keeps the windows closed during the day and opens them at night when it cools down. She added if need be, her and her husband could go down into the basement for cooler temperatures.
The Lichtis said Westar offered them more than just a generator. They said Westar offered to pay for water and ice as well as reimbursing them for some damage to their fence from a downed pole.