Co-op Crews Work to Restore Power After Damaging Windstorms in the South

Friday’s windstorms knocked out power to thousands of electric cooperative meters in several states. (Photo Courtesy: Fleming-Mason Energy Cooperative)

Updated: March 7, 2:30 p.m. ET

Electric cooperative line crews are still hard at work on restoration efforts in Kentucky and parts of surrounding states after windstorms knocked out power to more than 300,000 co-op members last Friday.

“It’s all hands on deck,” said Randy Meredith, director of safety and training at Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Co-op crews are not letting up. We are working around the clock. Each crew is working 16-hour shifts at staggered times, so there are crews working 24/7.”

This mutual aid crew from Missouri is among some 500 personnel working to restore service in Kentucky. (Photo Courtesy: Central Missouri EC)

Kentucky co-ops have restored power to about 94% of consumer-members who initially lost service in the storm, with outage numbers down to about 15,000 on Tuesday afternoon. Damage to co-op poles and lines was widespread and extensive, affecting all 26 of the state’s co-ops. The statewide association coordinated a mutual aid response involving about 500 personnel from more than 60 co-ops in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Crews and contractors have been busy replacing more than 600 broken poles and replacing or repairing power lines at thousands of locations in Kentucky, said Joe Arnold, vice president of strategic communications for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp., headquartered in Bowling Green, reported early Tuesday afternoon that about 5,000 of the nearly 72,000 meters on its system were still out of service, down from 43,000 outages in the initial aftermath of the storm.

All 26 of Kentucky’s electric co-ops saw damaged poles and lines after last week’s storm. (Photo Courtesy: Farmers RECC)

While restoration has been completed in most densely populated areas where crews have been able to reach lines along paved roadways, much of the remaining work is taking place in rural areas, where rights of way cut through woodlands and undeveloped rural areas.

“These areas are also often among the most difficult to restore service after a natural disaster given the terrain and other factors,” Arnold said.

Louisville-based United Utility Supply, a co-op-owned distributor of parts and materials, continues to ship poles, cross-arms, connectors and other materials to crew staging points.

Co-ops in parts of Missouri, Tennessee and Alabama also reported substantial damage from the storm. The majority of affected members had their service fully restored over the weekend, with repairs ongoing at several co-ops this week.

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.