Co-op Sends in a Barge Carrying Bucket Trucks After Tornado Hits Island

When a single bucket truck was not enough to restore power on Smith Island, A&N Electric Cooperative shipped in more help to make repairs. (Photo By: A&N Electric Co-op)

When an island community bears the brunt of extreme weather, the logistics of accessing the proper resources for power restoration are a little more complicated.

After a waterspout roared ashore on Maryland’s Smith Island earlier this month, the electric cooperative that serves about 300 members and businesses in the picturesque Chesapeake Bay community brought in some extra help via barge to complete repairs.

In the immediate aftermath of the tornado, the co-op was able to lean on a nearby crew.

“Some of our personnel live on nearby Tangier Island and they went out to assess the damage,” said Jay Diem, coordinator of communications and public relations for A&N Electric Cooperative. “We have diesel generators on the island, and we were able to restore power to most members who could safely receive service within an hour.”

A waterspout that roared ashore on Smith Island damaged several homes and knocked out power to about 300 members of A&N Electric Cooperative. (Photo By: A&N Electric Cooperative)

But about 60 of the co-op’s meters were still without service late Aug. 4. With residents and hundreds of tourists sweltering in summer heat, managers of the Tasley, Virginia-based co-op worked overnight on a restoration plan. Shortly after daybreak the next morning, a tugboat pushing a barge carrying a digger derrick and two bucket trucks was island-bound.

Loaded with poles, cross arms and hardware from the co-op’s Tasley supply yard, crews quickly joined the local team and spent the day wrapping up restoration work. Within hours, ceiling fans were spinning and air conditioners and pool pumps were back in service, said Diem.

Trey Pruitt, an A&N Electric Cooperative line technician, helps rebuild power lines on Smith Island after a waterspout came ashore and knocked out power to about 300 of the co-op’s members. (Photo By: A&N Electric Cooperative)

Waterspouts over Chesapeake Bay are a fairly common sight in August. But when they make landfall, they are reclassified as tornadoes. The National Weather Service rated this one as an EF-1 with winds of 86 to 110 mph. It was over land for about seven minutes, long enough to tear roofs and siding from homes and other buildings, snap a few utility poles, and rip down power lines on portions of the island.

“We contract for barge service to help get equipment and materials to the island for bigger jobs and any major repairs we have to make,” said Diem. “August is a pretty busy time for Smith Island. Not only is it the end of the summer tourist season, but it’s also an active time for the crab fleet, so we’re glad we were able to restore service quickly.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.