Wildfires and Snow Cause Co-op Outages

GreyStone Power crews restore service following an early December winter storm. (Photo By: GreyStone Power)
GreyStone Power crews restore service following an early December winter storm. (Photo By: GreyStone Power)

Wildfires in Southern California and the first major winter storm to hit parts of the mid-South and Appalachia knocked out power to more than a quarter-million meters served by electric cooperatives.

Wildfires were burning 35 to 40 miles away from Anza Electric Cooperative’s service territory.

“Southern California Edison temporarily disconnected lines feeding one of their substations that feed our system as a precaution to reduce the fire risks,” said Kevin Short, general manager of the Anza-based co-op. “We had a system-wide outage that affected all 5,200 of our meters for about 22 hours.”

The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for high winds that could potentially increase fire danger. Humidity levels in single digits and winds in excess of 20 mph could prompt further service disruptions, Short said.

The co-op contacted all members needing electricity for life support so they could head to locations outside the outage area, and it dispatched a generator to a community building in Anza where members could charge their mobile devices. Anza EC’s fiber-optic internet subsidiary continued to operate on battery power for at least eight hours into the outage period.

Line technician Willie Moon of Crewe, Virginia-based Southside Electric Cooperative works to restore power following heavy snowfall from a winter storm. (Photo By: Southside Electric Cooperative)

Elsewhere, a winter storm that brought measurable snow to parts of Oklahoma and Texas dumped 13 inches of snow in some areas of Georgia.

“Nearly 300 additional linemen and 50 right-of-way crews from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina have been working in the affected areas,” said Terri Statham, manager of media relations for Georgia EMC. High outage figures for Georgia co-ops topped 159,000 at the height of the storm.

Parts of southern Mississippi received at least six inches of snow. At one point, service to about 59,000 co-op-served meters was out.

“About 150 co-op crew members from other parts of the state came in to help the six worst affected co-ops restore power,” said Ron Stewart, senior vice president of communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.

In Alabama, three co-ops received mutual aid from 10 others in restoring power to about 10,000 meters. Outages caused by the snow were also reported in parts of North Carolina and Virginia as the weather system pushed northeast into the mid-Atlantic region.

Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.