Wednesday, August 19, 2015

‘Tis the season! Wait … what?

It may be August, but our 2015 holiday Cookie Book already is starting to take shape. We just wrapped up the photo shoot for this year’s book, and we promise it won’t disappoint.

Our designers and food photographer worked their magic like usual, producing many mouth-watering images. At right is a sneak peak.

The 2015 We Energies Cookie Book has a new twist this year. We’ve collected recipes from across the country under the theme, “Holidays across America.” As a result, this year’s book will be bigger than usual, giving customers even more delicious recipes. The book will include 51 recipes – one from each state, plus Washington, D.C.

Our distribution schedule is online, so check it out and mark your calendars now. Distribution starts in early November with signature events in Milwaukee and Appleton on Saturday, Nov. 7.

For more behind-the-scenes footage from our photo shoot, watch these stories from Fox 6 News and Today’s TMJ4:

Fox 6 - “Looking luscious:” We Energies gets its cookie book ready for holiday season

TMJ-4 – We Energies to release annual cookie book in November

Monday, August 17, 2015

Crews unearth piece of local history

Crews installing a new gas main on Wells Street in Wauwatosa are taking a trip down memory lane. Underneath all the layers of concrete, they’ve unearthed old railroad tracks. They date back to the late 1800s, when Milwaukee’s original streetcars ran down Wells Street.

Our crews are upgrading a natural gas main in Wauwatosa, installing a new main underneath Wells Street. Before they can install the new pipe, they have to tear out the old trolley tracks. One crew has been busy ripping out the old steel tracks and railroad ties, while another crew follows behind to install the gas line. The old streetcar pieces are being hauled away to a scrap yard, but at least a couple are being saved for posterity. We’re told the historical society may get one. 
We looked through our archives and found this picture of an old Wells Street streetcar (bottom photo at right).

According to John Gurda’s “Path of a Pioneer,” Milwaukee’s first electric streetcar, a Sprague model, made its triumphal maiden voyage down Wells Street on April 3, 1890.

Known as the Route 10 streetcar line, it was the first streetcar route in Milwaukee and the first route to leave the city for a suburb.

According to Wauwatosa Alderman Dennis McBride who serves on the Wauwatosa Historic Preservation Commission, the old Wells Street line was a key component to Wauwatosa’s rapid growth from town to village to city.

The old streetcars operated out of our headquarters building on Michigan Street, called The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company at that time.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Meeting customers at state fair's Energy Park

We've been having so much fun at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair. We hope you've had fun with us too. There is still time to join us - the fair runs through Sunday, Aug. 16. 

The best part of Energy Park is meeting you and your families. We enjoy sharing our safety messages with you through our interactive displays and games, keeping your kids safe with safety wristbands, and teaching you a thing or two about birds, gardening and cooking. 

A mother reached out to us on Facebook to thank one of our employees for making her daughter’s day extra special.

“Going above and beyond at the Wisconsin State Fair - thanks for drawing Hello Kitty on my daughter’s hat,” said Melissa Graves.

Employee David Nestler was happy to make 4-year-old Mallory’s day. He said, “She reminded me of my daughter, so I thought I would draw something special on her hat.”

Graves says that her daughter has been showing off her custom hat ever since.

Graves brought her children to Energy Park for the first time this year. She said they loved learning what natural gas smelled like and what the inside of a gas meter looks like. They also enjoyed learning about our gardens.

If you have a story to share, feel free to direct message us on Facebook. We might feature your Energy Park story.

We're getting 'Cheesy' at Wisconsin State Fair

Our customers come from all walks of life. Some live in the city, and some live in the country. One of the best things about the Wisconsin State Fair is that it brings these two groups together to learn more about country life, especially our Wisconsin farmers.

This is the second year we participated in the Blue Ribbon Cheese and Butter auction hosted by the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board. The board is made up of individuals and organizations who promote Wisconsin’s $43.4 billion dairy industry. The auction features the sale of blue-ribbon entries into the fair’s Cheese and Butter contest.

2015 Blue Ribbon Cheese and Butter Auction
“Dairy farmers are important business customers, and we are happy to support them,” said Susan Crane, manager of our special projects.

The We Energies Foundation purchased a 12-pound block of blue veined cheese from Team Salemville of Saputo Specialty Cheese in Richfield and a 12-pound block of mozzarella from George Crave of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Waterloo.

The money raised at the auction supports scholarships for students pursuing dairy-related careers and the board’s dairy promotion efforts at the Wisconsin State Fair.

“We have a real commitment to help youth,” added Crane. “Developing a skill set of dedication and hard work through participation at the fair will help them throughout their lives.”

We Energies Foundation, is a nonprofit corporation that supports initiatives that promote culture and education in the communities in which we do business.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Workers find furry friend in need of help

Two of our field employees came across an unusual site today – a raccoon stuck in a sewer grate. They alerted their supervisor, who contacted the Wisconsin Humane Society.

The Humane Society sent someone to rescue the little guy, nicknamed “Walter the We Energies raccoon” by the workers who found him. We are told Walter is once again roaming the streets of Milwaukee.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Power outage caused by unexpected object

Twitter follower alerted us.
Two rounds of storms caused power outages to more than 26,000 customers in our service area over the weekend.

We often see tree branches come in contact with our equipment and cause outages. Other unusual debris, however, also can become entangled in our wires.

In the town of Genesee, Wisconsin, one of our Twitter followers alerted our crews to a trampoline that was entangled in wires. 

Troubleshooter Scott Kirchoff was the first to arrive on scene. “You never know what’s going to happen when you come into work. It was something you don’t see every day,” said Kirchoff. 

Witnesses told our crews the trampoline flew into the air, sailed over a farm house, soared across the highway and then landed on our wires. As with any good stories, witnesses had different claims of how far up in the air the
trampoline reached. Most answered between 50 and 100 feet. 

Trampoline on wires in Genesee.
The incident caused 70 customers to lose power.

Kirchoff assessed the situation and decided he needed a crew with specialized equipment to help with the situation. He also called local authorities to help with traffic control as many people were stopping to look at the strange sight.

The trampoline was still rocking back and forth on the wires when Line Mechanic Dart Ellsworth arrived in his bucket truck.

Ellsworth said, “It was definitely interesting. It was a challenging project, but we were able to remove it safely. “

Dave Megna, vice president – Wisconsin system operations, says all sorts of objects, such as aluminum lawn furniture, have been tossed around into our wires during storms.

“This incident is a good reminder to secure objects that can easily fly around during high winds,” said Megna.

This incident did not cause downed lines, but if you come across downed power lines, or anything touching those lines, stay at least 25 feet away and call 911 or 800-662-4797.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Restoring service after your power goes out

Service restoration can take seconds, minutes, hours 
or days, 
depending on damage severity and scope.
Nobody wants to be without electric power, but power can go out at any time for a number of reasons –  severe weather, faulty equipment, fallen trees and branches, animal contact, accidents and other incidents.

If your power goes out, call 800-662-4797 to report it. Calls help pinpoint outages. Also, if you see a wire down or something unusual, such as a flash, report that, too.

Storm preparation and response

If we know storms are coming, we anticipate where they may strike and mobilize our repair crews to respond quickly. When damage is widespread, we bring in additional crews from our other areas that may not be affected by the storms. Sometimes, storms may affect our entire service area. In such situations, we have contractors that assist us. We also have mutual assistance agreements with neighboring utilities.

Crews work around the clock until service is restored to all customers; however, for safety reasons, crews only work as many as 16 hours in a 24-hour period. After a required 8-hour break for sleep, crews continue their work, if needed. Typically, we use rotations so some crews always are working while others are resting.

Crews often are hampered by difficult conditions. Roadways may be compromised by flooding, ice, snow or fallen trees and other debris, making it difficult or impossible to get to certain sites where repair work is needed. Working in severe cold, wind as well as snow and rain also can slow things down.

Restoration times
Damaged service mast.

Power outages may last seconds, minutes, hours or even days, depending on the severity of damage and how widespread the damage may be. Outages that last just seconds or minutes often are caused by wildlife, weather or vegetation contacting our electric lines and sometimes by contractors digging into our underground wires. Many times, our system can quickly reset itself. You may experience some blinking clocks, but your power returns with little delay. At other times, damage requires a crew to find and fix the cause of the outage.

If the problem is a pole that is knocked down or broken, a new pole can be set in an hour or two, and the wires restrung in two or three hours – if the location is easily accessible. In places with more difficult access, the process can take twice as long. Another factor is how many wires are on a pole. More wires mean more work and more time.

Underground wires have problems less frequently, but when problems occur, they are more difficult to locate and take longer to repair.

Sometimes, we cannot restore service because of damage to the service mast at your home or business. In such cases, you would need to contact an electrician to replace or repair that equipment before we can reconnect. If you see a situation similar to the adjacent picture, you should contact an electrician as soon as possible.

Prioritizing response to widespread outages

When we get numerous outages at the same time, we prioritize our response.

  • First, we address situations that are life-threatening or hazardous, such as a power line on a street. 
  • After such situations are addressed, we begin the restoration process by making equipment repairs that are causing outages to the greatest number of customers, typically in this order:
    • Transmission lines
    • Substations
    • Main distribution lines
    • Secondary lines to neighborhoods 
    • Sservice lines to individual homes and businesses.

Minimizing outages

To reduce potential outages, we evaluate our system annually to identify areas that experience the most problems and to take steps to improve reliability. The solutions may be equipment upgrades, additional tree trimming or other protective measures.

Be prepared

Because an outage can occur at any time, we always are ready to respond. We don’t want you to be without power any more than you do. But outages do occur, and we recommend that you be prepared:

Steps to take before a power outage

When you have an outage, use these tips:

Steps to take during a power outage