Western Kentucky residents faced devastating destruction just before the December 2021 holiday season. A deadly tornado leveled homes and businesses, mangled vehicles, and downed transmission and distribution lines as far as the eye could see. The road to recovery seemed overwhelming.
“The level of destruction was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, a path 38 miles long and a mile wide in our service territory,” said David Smart, president and CEO of West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative.
Fortunately, West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative had deployed technology five years prior to the storm which enabled a targeted and efficient restoration effort for their 30,000 neighbors in need.
Cooperative personnel used advanced metering infrastructure from Sensus, a Xylem brand, to quickly work through the emergency. The FlexNet communication network is a reliable, point-to-multipoint system that enables near real-time meter data monitoring.
“The network helped determine if there was a meter without power in the field, as opposed to us sending out a truck,” said Smart. “It allowed us to pinpoint outages quicker and we restored power to all our co-op members in almost a week’s time.”
Experts from Xylem confirmed that all network gear withstood the catastrophe, which allowed for immediate outage notifications and helped identify the 218 homes destroyed beyond repair in the co-op’s service area. Co-op and mutual aid crews also replaced more than 250 transformers and stood up nearly 500 downed poles.
The co-op’s operations center in Graves County sustained partial roof damage in the storm. Just down the road, their main office lost communications, but the building withstood the 200-mile-per-hour winds. Had it not, Xylem operates servers in secure locations to ensure the smart meter data is always backed up, which was reassuring amid havoc.
“This time we were able to access our own data, but it’s nice to know Xylem can provide a safety net,” said Smart. “You can never have enough redundancy when it comes to resilient operations.”
The cooperative was not alone throughout the event or in the days following. First responders and disaster relief agencies provided immediate aid to those in need.
“The degree of loss has been difficult for the community, but the way people have stepped up since then has been tremendously encouraging,” said Georgann Lookofsky, communication and media relations coordinator for the electricity provider.
Today, the residents of Marshall and Graves Counties continue to rebuild their communities. The road to full recovery will be long, but their initial response was nothing less than heroic.