Updated: Sept. 22, noon
Aided by nearly 1,400 electric cooperative employees from more than 90 co-ops in a dozen states, Alabama’s Baldwin EMC had restored power to 85% of its meters Tuesday after Hurricane Sally’s relentless rains and record floods battered its system last week.
More than 90% of Baldwin EMC’s members were without power for several days after Sally made landfall Sept. 16 as a Category 2 hurricane near Mobile Bay. But as of Tuesday morning, the co-op had restored power to nearly 70,000 of its 80,000-plus meters. Of the system’s 100 total circuits, 97 had power.
“Baldwin EMC employees, along with hundreds of other lineworkers from across the country, are working diligently to restore power as safely and quickly as possible,” the co-op said on its website. “However, due to the widespread damage, the company does expect extended outages in some areas.”
Baldwin EMC had approximately 2,000 broken poles, 1,200 broken crossarms, 4,160 spans of downed wire and almost 4,300 fallen trees on lines, the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives said. Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey met with co-op leaders Friday as she toured the area to see the devastation. Baldwin EMC is the state’s biggest co-op.
Co-op crews were dispatched to Alabama from Florida, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, the statewide association said. Other Alabama co-ops also were helping Baldwin EMC. The co-op expressed its gratitude on Twitter, posting a video of bucket trucks from throughout the country streaming in to help, with the hashtags #HereComesTheCavalry and #NoBetterSight.
Co-op crews from nearby states were able to rush into Alabama in part because Sally did not hit as hard as initially forecast in Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Co-ops in those states were spared from major damage, freeing their crews to help Baldwin EMC.
In Florida, Escambia River Electric Cooperative in Jay had restored power to its entire system by Monday night. Immediately following the hurricane, 95% of the co-op’s members were without electricity, with 10,919 outages.
Crews from four other Florida co-ops and two Mississippi co-ops helped Escambia River EC repair its systems, said Alisia Hounshell, director of communications and statewide services at Florida Electric Cooperative Association.
“Power restoration to the EREC membership following Hurricane Sally is now complete,” the co-op announced on its website. “Every member able to receive electricity has had their power restored. We thank our membership for their patience and tremendous show of support as our line crews worked to restore power as safely and quickly as possible. We thank our fellow cooperatives who sent their line crews to assist us in our time of need to rebuild our battered system. We are proud to be a part of the cooperative family. Together, we are cooperative strong.”
Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.