Electric Co-ops Prepare for Hurricane Harvey

The path of Hurricane Harvey (Image by: NOAA)

Electric cooperatives in Texas and Louisiana are preparing for a historic, long duration storm as Hurricane Harvey churns towards the Texas coastline.

The National Hurricane Center is expecting “catastrophic” flooding as the Category 3 hurricane dumps as much as 35 inches of rain in some parts of southeast Texas.

Co-ops that might be affected by high winds, heavy rainfall and flooding are prepared to begin damage assessment and power restoration when conditions allow. However, they have also advised members to be prepared for the possibility of extended outages, given the magnitude of the storm.

“We are expecting significant damage in our service territory due to Hurricane Harvey. However, our employees are prepared to work diligently and safely to restore power to each and every one of our members,” said Ron Hughes, general manager of Sinton-based San Patricio Electric Cooperative. Hughes said the area is under a mandatory evacuation, though some linemen remain on duty to respond to outages until it is no longer safe to do so.

According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, co-ops in 15 states from as far away as Michigan, are holding daily conference calls to coordinate the deployment of the co-ops’ mutual assistance program.

In addition to those calls, NRECA and impacted co-ops are participating in daily calls with the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council and key government agencies.

“Keeping members and employees safe before, during and after what experts believe could be a historic and devastating storm is every co-op’s highest priority,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “If Hurricane Harvey stays in the area as predicted, significant flooding may occur. Given the length of time the hurricane may stay over southeast Texas, patience is important as co-ops work together to safely restore power.”

Co-ops pioneered the electric utility mutual assistance program, which allows co-ops to send crews, equipment and other aid to the disaster zone. Working to restore power in the wake of hurricanes or other major disasters is a team effort, particularly after a historic and long-duration event like Hurricane Harvey.

“In addition to the cooperative’s crews, which are already prepared for the storm, several hundred contracted line technicians will be staged and ready to respond if needed,” said Keith Stapleton, chief communications officer at Sam Houston Electric Cooperative in Livingston. “Additional system operators will also be on duty in dispatch until the storm passes.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.

Read and view all of our Hurricane Harvey coverage.