Despite vulnerability to wind, hanging power lines on poles a cheaper and more realistic option

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Have you ever wondered why all power lines aren't buried? That way falling trees couldn't get to them.

This week's high winds brought down trees that, in turn, brought down power lines and left more than 150,000 First Energy customers in the dark and cold.

First Energy serves more than 2 million in several contiguous states in the Midwest.

Spokesman Mark Durbin says burying power lines would be a very expensive proposition.

"The tune of five- to 10-times more expensive, depending on the particular situation," he said. "Depending on the community, depending on where the lines would have to go."

For example, on a paved street in Cleveland, crews might have to dig up trees, lawns, and concrete before burying the lines and repaving.

It costs about $10 per linear foot to put power lines on poles. It would cost between $20 and $40 to put those lines under ground -- about $1 million a mile.

According to Bloomberg, there are more than 2.7 million miles of power lines across America. To bury that much cable would cost a fortune, not to mention trouble-shooting and repairing underground cables.

"Say, for example, there is a problem -- if that line is underground over the course of 2 to 3 miles, you have no idea where that problem is," Durbin said. "So, you literally have to start digging up piece by piece by piece to see where that problem might be. Whereas, if its an overhead line, you know where the problem is and you can fix easily."

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