Co-op Crews Restore Power After Violent Storms in South, Midwest

Crews from Selmer, Tennessee-based Pickwick Electric Cooperative spent the weekend replacing damaged poles and broken cross arms following severe storms that moved through the co-op’s territory. (Photo By: Trent Scott/TECA)

After another spell of deadly tornadoes and severe storms swept through the South and Midwest, crews from electric cooperatives in several states spent the weekend restoring service to thousands of members.

In Arkansas, high winds knocked out power to more than 50,000 meters, including 10,000 served by the state’s electric co-ops. Jacksonville-based First Electric Cooperative and Forrest City-based Woodruff Electric Cooperative experienced the worst of the outages, said Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

Co-ops from Iowa to Michigan and south into Tennessee and Kentucky also reported storm-related outages Friday and Saturday. Crews began restoring power and repairing damage as weather conditions improved in their territories.

Selmer, Tennessee-based Pickwick Electric Cooperative has been replacing more than 200 poles to restore service to about 3,000 of its nearly 21,000 meters, said Brad Howell, vice president of human resources and communications.

“We restored service to about 2,500 of our affected members by late Sunday,” said Howell. “Our families, neighbors and friends rely on us in times like this. We will continue to work diligently to get service restored to everyone who can receive power.”

About 50 homes in the co-op’s territory were heavily damaged or destroyed by tornadoes, and at least seven deaths reported in the Selmer area were attributed to the storms.

“There was damage from one end of McNairy County to the other,” said Trent Scott, vice president of communications for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It was a rough night.”

In Kentucky, distribution co-ops reported peak statewide outages of 20,000 meters, said Joe Arnold, vice president of strategic communications for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. Most affected meters were returned to service by early Sunday.

“We’ve been busy these past several weeks; the storms have weakened trees along our rights of way, so our co-ops have crews ready to respond when more storms occur,” Arnold said.

In Iowa, co-ops reported nearly 17,000 meters out Friday afternoon and evening, said Erin Campbell, director of communications for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. “Four co-ops serving members in the eastern part of the state experienced the most damage, but with the help of mutual aid from nearby co-ops, most members had power restored within a few hours.”

In Illinois, Shelbyville-based Shelby Electric Cooperative reported nearly 2,200 of its 9,765 meters out of service early Saturday, said Kevin Bernson, the vice president of media and public relations.

“Our crews worked through the weekend, and had most members restored by late Saturday morning,” Bernson said. “We were lucky compared to other areas in Illinois and other states so prayers going out to all states affected by these severe storms and super cells.”

More damage was reported as the weather system pushed through the Great Lakes into the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Multiple co-op systems in Pennsylvania were affected, with a peak of approximately 60,000 outages,” said Pete Fitzgerald, vice president of public affairs and member services for the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association. “High winds and fallen trees were responsible for much of the damage.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.

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