Electric cooperatives in several states worked through the weekend to assess system damage and restore service to more than 100,000 co-op members after severe storms and deadly tornadoes ripped through their communities.
In Mississippi, “portions of at least three co-op-served communities were devastated by the tornadoes,” said Lydia Walters, vice president of communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.
The state’s co-ops saw around 13,000 outages. Hollandale-based Twin County Electric Power Association serves Rolling Fork and Silver City, which were both heavily damaged by an EF4 tornado that meteorologists say swept across 60 miles of the state with sustained winds estimated at 200 mph on Friday.
Monroe County Electric Power Association, headquartered in Amory, also reported serious damage from that storm as it roared across its territory.
“The area is devastated. Twin County EPA has 450 broken poles,” said Walters.
Episodes of severe weather continued through the weekend and into Monday. East Mississippi Electric Power Association, based in Meridian, reported about 50 broken poles after high winds moved through its territory Sunday, knocking out power to about 5,000 of its 37,000 meters.
In Alabama, co-ops saw at least 5,700 outages, including 4,400 for Trinity-based Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp., said Michael Cornelison, the co-op’s director of communications.
“We had two tornadoes reported in the Danville-Hartselle area of our system,” said Cornelison. One of those twisters was on the ground for about 13 miles. With the help of mutual aid, most members who could safely receive electricity had their power restored by early Sunday afternoon.
Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Hamilton, reported more than 1,700 of its nearly 10,000 meters out in the aftermath of the storms. The co-op had more than 100 personnel and contractors working throughout the weekend and wrapped up most restoration work Sunday.
Crews from nine of Alabama’s distribution co-ops assisted those two co-ops with pole replacement and line work. Tombigbee also received assistance from Selmer, Tennessee-based Pickwick Electric Cooperative and a municipal utility from Troy, Alabama.
In Georgia, Lagrange-based Diverse Power Inc. was the hardest hit among the state’s co-ops.
“There were severe thunderstorms and three confirmed tornadoes in the state Saturday and through Monday,” said Walter Jones, media relations manager for Georgia Electric Membership Corp.
The massive weather system also caused damage farther north. High winds knocked out power to about 60,000 co-op-served meters in Ohio. About five co-ops took the bulk of the damage, and they received mutual aid from co-ops based in Indiana and Virginia, said Caryn Whitney, director of communications for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives. Whitney said most outages were restored by Sunday, but work is continuing to repair lines and replace broken poles in the service territory of Carrollton-based Carroll Electric Cooperative.
In Pennsylvania, about 16,000 meters served by three of the state’s co-ops were out of service after the winds swept through, said Peter Fitzgerald, vice president of public affairs and member services for Allegheny Electric Cooperative. Fitzgerald, who also serves as spokesman for the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association, says co-ops serving members in western Pennsylvania began restoring power once weather conditions allowed and had most lines reenergized quickly.
“As of mid-afternoon Monday, crews and contractors are completing restoration work to restore service to a few hundred members who are still without power.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.