Powerful storms spawning numerous tornadoes roared through the South and Midwest on Friday night and early Saturday, with dozens feared dead. The storms knocked out electricity to more than 100,000 meters served by electric cooperatives in five states, and co-op crews and contractors worked this weekend to restore power to consumer-members.
“There is extensive damage requiring time-intensive repairs,” said Rita Alexander, vice president of human resources and member services for Trenton, Tennessee-based Gibson Electric Membership Corp.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides transmission for portions of the region, reported significant system damage. Repairs or replacement will be required for several lattice towers serving Gibson EMC territory, said Alexander. “We are unsure at this time when TVA will complete their repairs, but members served by the Clinton substation should be prepared for a lengthy outage.”
Crews across the Volunteer State were making repairs to lines serving about 17,000 co-op meters Saturday. Seven of the state’s co-ops suffered damage to their systems, and mutual aid operations were under way involving crews from less impacted co-ops.
“It was a tragic night for many in Tennessee and our neighboring states,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by this storm. Today and in the days to come, our crews will work quickly to restore power to the people and places we serve.”
In Kentucky, portions of the city of Mayfield, where West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. is headquartered, were leveled by tornadoes and high winds, and 28,000 meters were out after the storms moved through. Bowling Green-based Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. reported 20,000 meters out.
Interstate mutual aid crews involving co-ops and contractors from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were expected to be in the field helping Kentucky crews restore power in co-op-served areas.
Line crews worked Saturday to restore power to more than 100,000 meters served by electric cooperatives across the South and Midwest, including the area around Trenton, Tennessee. (Photo By: Gibson EMC)
“With a conservative estimate of more than 1,000 utility poles needing to be replaced and necessary equipment safely installed, power restoration at Kentucky co-ops will likely take weeks,” said Joe Arnold, vice president of strategic communications for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, adding that 75,000 co-op meters in the state were out in the aftermath of the storms. “Both transmission and distribution systems need rebuilding. It is unclear how severe the damage is to the homes of co-op employees, but we know that some of their homes are damaged.”
In the service territory of Jonesboro, Arkansas-based Craighead Electric Cooperative, straight-line winds and tornadoes damaged a senior citizens care center, causing injuries and at least one fatality.
“Arkansas experienced about 7,000 outages at the peak of the storm,” said Rob Roedel, a spokesman for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. “Mutual aid crews from neighboring cooperatives are assisting Craighead Electric and Mississippi County Electric Cooperative in power restoration efforts. Craighead Electric was the hardest-hit with at least two reported tornadoes in two service counties.”
Storm damage in Missouri was widespread, with about 15,000 co-op outages as of early Saturday afternoon. Hayti-based Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative reported more than 100 of its three-phase poles and numerous single-phase poles down after at least one tornado passed through its service territory. Four Missouri co-ops serving members in less affected areas were assisting with restoration efforts.
The storms also caused scattered outages in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as the weather system pushed eastward Saturday.
- Derrill Holly/NRECA