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Public Power Utilities Work To Restore Power In Wake Of Tornadoes

Dec. 13, 2021
Utilities in the regions affected by the destructive storms have started to send utility crews to help restore power where electric infrastructure was damaged and are working with others in the electric sector to identify unmet needs.

Public power utilities in several states are working to restore power in the wake of a string of deadly tornadoes that hit communities on the evening of Friday, Dec. 10.

“The devastation caused by tornadoes in several states last night is heartbreaking,” said Joy Ditto, President and CEO of the American Public Power Association (APPA), on Dec. 11. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy. I also greatly appreciate the work of the first responders still helping to rescue those in need.”

The tornadoes cut a destructive path through Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Utilities in the regions affected by the destructive storms have started to send utility crews to help restore power where electric infrastructure was damaged and are working with others in the electric sector to identify unmet needs.

President Biden on Dec. 11 noted that he has already spoken several times today with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and that FEMA has deployed emergency response personnel to these states, search-and-rescue teams, water and other supplies.

“FEMA is on the ground working with each of the states to assess the damages and focus on federal support where it is needed most and how we can get there most rapidly,” Biden said.

Biden has approved the emergency declaration that was requested by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “That’s going to accelerate federal emergency assistance for Kentucky right now, when it’s urgently needed,” the President said.

In Mayfield, Ky., public power utility Mayfield Electric & Water Systems reported that its electric substation took a direct hit. “We do not have transmission to the substation. The restoration time frame is unknown, however we do expect outages to last days and possibly even week.”

A candle factory in Mayfield that collapsed with workers inside will likely lead to the most fatalities of the severe weather event, according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

On Sunday, Dec. 12, Kentucky public power utility Bowling Green Utilities reported that crews were “already hard at work for what will be another very long day.” The utility also gave thanks to the following public power utilities and communities for helping it with restoration efforts:

  • Gallatin Department of Electricity (Gallatin, Tenn.)
  • Glasgow EPB (Glasgow, Ky.)
  • City of Franklin, Tenn.
  • City of Springfield, Tenn.

Bowling Green Utilities is also receiving assistance from North Georgia EMC, a rural electric cooperative, and electrical contractor Cookeville Electric.

Meanwhile, The Frankfort Plant Board (FPB), a public power utility located in Frankfort, Ky., reported that it was sending a crew to help restore power to the city of Princeton, Ky.

An FPB crew of eight electric linemen is loading up an auger truck, two bucket trucks and a foreman’s pickup truck with food, water and as many materials as they can haul, FBP reported Dec. 11.

“As our hearts break to see the devastation that is unfolding in west Kentucky, our FPB crews are going to do what we do best – get the lights back on,” said FPB Communications Director Cathy Lindsey. “This is what we can do today to help.”

FPB is part of a mutual aid network through the Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association (KMUA). KMUA coordinates with APPA, which organizes crews from the more than 2,000 public power utilities members to send to areas in need.

“This network makes resources rapidly available during a disaster and ensures that power is restored to those in need as quickly as possible while keeping outside entities from price gouging for labor and materials,” FPB noted.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on Dec. 12 reported that early Sunday morning, crews restored power to local power company connection points near Glasgow, Ky., and Lexington, Tenn. “Devastating tornados caused widespread damage in portions of western Kentucky, and middle Tennessee early Saturday morning,” TVA reported.

Over the weekend, TVA said that over 60 high-voltage transmission structures in Kentucky and Tennessee had been damaged, the most devastating storms since the 2011 tornado outbreak that affected Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. “Our crews are assessing damage and mobilizing for repairs,” TVA said.

Public power utility Nashville Electric Service (NES) on Sunday, Dec. 12, reported that its crews were continuing to restore power to the remaining 11,177 customers without power, down from the 95,000 outages at the start of its efforts.

NES launched a special website to assist customers affected by the storms (, which includes the latest outage map, storm Q&A and other helpful resources.

-American Public Power Association/Paul Ciampoli

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