When high winds, heavy rain and flooding knocked out nearly two-thirds of the meters served by Upshur-Rural Electric Cooperative earlier this month, one line crew saddled up and rode out on horseback to complete a tricky repair.
“We had transmission lines down and trees across lines,” said Jeff Gee, operations manager of the Gilmer, Texas-based distribution co-op, following a severe storm on May 8. “Our crews worked until 11:30 p.m. restoring power, and we were back at it at 6 a.m.” the following day.
With 46,000 members and outages affecting 30,000 meters, co-op trucks were working along roadside rights-of-way, and rough terrain vehicles and swamp buggies were being used to reach downed lines in Texas’ Piney Woods. The co-op’s only boat was deployed to help crews reach high-water areas.
Line apprentice Cory Richardson and service technician Sam Clemens were assigned to familiar territory near Lake O’ the Pines, a nearly 20,000-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir. Dozens of co-op members live in waterfront homes along the lake.
Two members were on horseback checking for damage to their property and came across a downed line in a portion of their deer lease that was underwater after the storm, so they rode out to the road to tell the line crew about it, said Gee.
With the co-op’s resources being used elsewhere for other repairs, the crew knew horses would be the quickest option at hand to access the line. “Our only boat was tied up in another portion of our service territory and would not have been available for hours.” Gee said.
Clemens was raised in the area and knew the owners of the property had more horses available, so he asked them if they could lead the crew back to the downed line. After the group got as close as they could on horseback, Richardson determined that the circuit was out, swam out to the de-energized line, climbed the pole and made the repair, Gee said.
The co-op completed most storm-related restoration on its system by May 10. “I’ve been with Upshur-RECC for 38 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone riding out on horseback to make repairs,” Gee said.
Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.