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Lightning myths and facts to keep you safe in severe weather

Hot and humid summer days can often produce violent thunderstorms. New transmission lines are built with a grounded shield wire along the top of the poles, above the conductors, to protect the line from lightning. Like trees and other tall objects, transmission poles are likely to intercept lightning strikes, but they do not attract lightning.

Below are a few myths and facts about lightning, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10 to 15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch the individual, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It’s perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give him or her first aid.

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties.

ATC partners with Root-Pike WIN to restore 46 acres along Lamparek Ditch

American Transmission Co. has teamed up with Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network to help restore a portion of the Lamparek Ditch in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Fifty native species will be planted in the new corridor, helping to reduce runoff of pollutants, create wildlife habitat and increase flood water storage capacity for the watershed. The article below is an excerpt from a recent Root-Pike WIN newsletter.

American Transmission Co. is working with Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network to help restore a portion of the Lamparek Ditch, a critical tributary of the impaired North Branch of the Pike River in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Restoration efforts along this historically degraded and mostly cultivated riparian corridor will aim to promote regional clean water and ecosystem goals.

ATC will provide funds to purchase and plant native vegetation along a new 1.2-mile transmission line corridor between County Trunk Highway H and 90th Street. Enhanced seeding and plantings of native, floristically diverse vegetation will help reduce runoff of pollutants, create wildlife habitat, and increase flood water storage capacity for the watershed.

“ATC understands ‘win-win’ and sets a great example for corporate environmental stewardship,” said Dave Giordano, executive director of Root-Pike WIN. “They listened to the needs in our Pike River Watershed Restoration Plan and quickly stepped up with a much richer – and more expensive – planting plan. Having a native plant mix with greater diversity translates into reduced sheet runoff, better groundwater infiltration, improved habitat for pollinators, and a richer environmental connection point to the North Branch. These corridors are essential to the current and future health of the rapidly-developing Wisconn Valley watersheds.”

The diverse seeding and planting will include a mixture of more than 50 species of tall grass prairie, wet prairie, sedge meadow and submergent aquatic species. Vegetation will include an abundance of flowering plants with bloom times scattered throughout the year to support pollinators during their active seasons. The corridor will be approximately 320-feet wide.

Claude Lois, project director for the Village of Mount Pleasant, commented, “The Village of Mount Pleasant works vigorously with our community partners to protect and enhance our environmental assets. We are pleased to be working with community partners to explore ways to rehabilitate and improve the water quality and natural habitat of the Lamparek Ditch as part of the new development in that area.”

In total, ATC has committed to restoring 46 acres of a previously dominated agricultural setting to native vegetation – 30 acres of new transmission line right-of-way and 16 acres of new substation property along the north side of the tributary. ATC will monitor and maintain the planted areas through 2020. To keep the restored areas resilient long-term, Root-Pike WIN and ATC will seek additional partnerships with other stakeholders along the newly-created and enhanced greenspace corridor.

Notes from the field – Discoveries in Wisconsin’s Desert (part 2)

American Transmission Co. environmental project managers traverse hills and countryside monitoring construction activities year-round. They are the eyes and ears in the field, working with contractors to ensure that we demonstrate our environmental commitment.

Our Notes from the Field blog features highlights of what our environmental project managers see while they work on projects throughout our service area. This installment features photos and observations from Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager.

CONTINUED FROM JUNE 14 …

It was 10 a.m. on May 14 in Western Wisconsin, and I had already encountered a snake species that took me 41 years to first see in the wild. Success!

But was there more to come? Besides timber rattlesnakes, there was at least one additional “lifer” species of snake that I knew inhabited the land I was on, so before I could continue on to my day’s tasks, I sought to peruse the rocky, sparsely grassed, cliff-side environment that provided this species’ preferred habitat. (Note: “lifer” is a term that herpers, birders, and other wildlife enthusiasts use to describe species that they have encountered for the first time in their lives … )

Many snakes use protective cover to stay concealed during the day. It’s their way to avoid predators, as well as to help regulate their body temperatures. Cover can take many forms; old logs, branches, rocks and even man-made debris like old boards, large pieces of sheet metal and other trash. I began gently flipping hillside rocks, and it wasn’t long before I found my second new species of the day, the prairie ringneck.

The prairie ringneck is a diminutive but gorgeously colored, secretive snake that poses no threat unless you are an earthworm or slug, which comprise most of its diet. A most striking feature of this snake is how the yellow on its belly gives way to bright orange, then red as it reaches the tail. When feeling threatened, the ringneck will wind its tail into a corkscrew, exposing the red in an attempt to dissuade predators. In about 10 minutes of rock-flipping on my way to the car, I was lucky to turn up four or five of these beauties, snap a few pics, and carefully replace both the rocks and snakes before moving on.


It was time to be on my way to visit my project sites. After visiting the first project site just down the road to get a feel for the surrounding habitat, I would make my way to an active construction project to observe the removal of protective matting.

As I arrived, I noticed a single mat, a good distance away from the closest transmission structure, floating in the unusual amount of standing water in the area. A casualty of recent spring flooding, it would be retrieved as soon as conditions would allow. For now, however, it was providing the perfect opportunity for about a dozen or so painted turtles to take in the suns rays, at least half of which would scatter before I could snap a photo.

This would prove to be my last animal encounter for the day, as I spent its remainder cruising the project area while noting the incredible progress that was being made from west to east as the line is being rebuilt. It always amazes me how quickly it seems the construction phase of transmission line rebuilds go, given the years of planning and preparation that go into ensuring that everything goes well. In this case, it is apparent that all that preparation was worth the effort. Before long, this project will be complete, and I’ll move on to another one. Until then, I will continue to look forward to the opportunity to visit what I feel to be one of the loveliest parts of this state.

Michael Warwick is a senior environmental project manager at ATC. Prior to joining ATC he worked as an environmental consultant conducting tree and plant surveys, wetland delineation, GIS, project planning, community planning and permitting. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a focus on waterway monitoring and studies, and wetland and waterway permit reviews.

Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and environmental sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently certified by Wisconsin DNR as an Endangered Resources Reviewer and is a member of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) Outreach Committee. He volunteers his time guiding annual natural resources-based educational field trips for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

Notes from the field – Discoveries in Wisconsin’s desert

American Transmission Co. environmental project managers traverse hills and countryside monitoring construction activities year-round. They are the eyes and ears in the field, working with contractors to ensure that we demonstrate our environmental commitment.

Our Notes from the Field blog features highlights of what our environmental project managers see while they work on projects throughout our service area. This installment features photos and observations from Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager.

Western Wisconsin

The driftless area. A vast chunk of Wisconsin that the glaciers missed, so many years ago. The lack of glaciation means the western part of our state looks incredibly different from the east, and those differences are plentiful. While the eastern portion of the state is relatively flat with numerous lakes, the west is covered in wooded hills and dry, rocky bluffs. Parts of the driftless area are often called “Wisconsin’s desert,” due to the vast swaths of sandy soils, dry microclimate and prickly-pear cactus scattered about.

These differences mean that western Wisconsin provides an incredible amount of habitat variation for species that depend on the habitats described above. Because of its unique qualities, this city-based nature nerd gets excited whenever a new transmission project means a visit to another area of the state that I’ve never previously explored.

I was recently assigned a project on a transmission line in an area that is about as far west as one can travel in the state without hitting the Mississippi. Almost immediately after being assigned to this project, substantial late-winter flooding resulted in the emergency replacement of a wood pole on the same line. The pole was replaced temporarily, with the intent that a permanent fix would take place later, once floodwaters had receded to make construction more accessible.

On May 14, a beautiful, 70-degree Wisconsin spring day, I set out west to visit portions of the project. My goal was to assess the possible habitat associated with each location, and determine which, if any, resources would be impacted by our work. On the way back, I planned to visit another project currently under construction, one as complex environmentally as any I’ve worked on, to check on protective matting removal and restoration efforts.

But first, I had a stop to make. Just three minutes down the road from the western portion of the project exists a site known to have several species of snake that I’ve never had the luck of observing in the wild. Last year, I made the five-hour roundtrip drive to this site on a Saturday in June, family reluctantly in tow, on quite possibly the worst possible day for this kind of thing; a 95-degree, obscenely humid, awfully mosquito-filled day. We found nothing. The whole day was a bust, and the family, irritable.

This time, I would not be denied. The weather was perfect, and I would find my Holy Grail. Within five minutes at the site, as I glanced off to my left at a flat outcrop, there they were. Two large, adult timber rattlesnakes.

I kept my distance, but it didn’t take long for them to consider me at least a minor annoyance. They rattled their tails at me … a warning to give them their space … as they slithered away to find refuge in their rock crevices. As I leaned in to take photos while they made their exit, I almost didn’t notice another, much smaller critter at my feet, hidden among the grays and tans of last season’s fallen leaves.

Another timber rattler, this one a juvenile. Likely born late last summer, as evidenced by its small size and the tiny button at the tip of its tail, not old enough to have developed a rattle. It laid perfectly still, hoping I would finish what I was doing and move on. After snapping numerous photos from various angles, I did just that. My day had been made! I was lucky enough to have witnessed three individuals of a species I have never seen in the wild in all my 41 years, despite actively seeking them out. It was only 10 a.m., and I had the rest of the day ahead of me.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Michael Warwick is a senior environmental project manager at ATC. Prior to joining ATC he worked as an environmental consultant conducting tree and plant surveys, wetland delineation, GIS, project planning, community planning and permitting. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a focus on waterway monitoring and studies, and wetland and waterway permit reviews.

Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and environmental sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently certified by Wisconsin DNR as an Endangered Resources Reviewer and is a member of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) Outreach Committee. He volunteers his time guiding annual natural resources-based educational field trips for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin

ATC employees help Fairview School with STEM projects

American Transmission Co. employee volunteers recently worked with students at Fairview School in Milwaukee Public Schools on two science technology engineering and math projects. Employees volunteered in the classroom and ATC provided supplies to support the projects during an ATC STEM Day of Caring.

Fairview students in grades two through four designed and built carriers that each hold a raw egg. The assignment was to make a carrier that could keep the egg intact when it was dropped two stories. ATC volunteers helped them design and build the project. On testing day, most eggs survived the fall while the excited students watched from the ground as each project was dropped. A few eggs even rolled out of their containers!

Seventh grade students designed blades for a wind turbine and tested them. ATC volunteers with engineering skills provided feedback while students researched their designs and helped some students start the building process. Each team prepared two designs, one for speed and one for torque.

“I think overall as students worked in teams to design and test solutions, they were empowered to develop solutions to problems in real time. They also had to focus on skills like collaboration, critical thinking and communication to create a successful prototype,” said Fairview teacher, Jason Floyd.

Our volunteers were impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of the students. They were exploring different materials and experimenting with different techniques. And best of all, they were learning and applying their skills in new ways.

We are so grateful for our time spent sharing STEM ideas with Fairview students. We learn from them at least as much as they learn from us.