Month: October 2020

Co-ops Restore Power After Back-to-Back Hurricanes

Louisiana’s electric cooperatives were still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Laura when Hurricane Delta slammed into the state on Oct. 9, dealing another blow to co-op members already coping with damaged or destroyed homes.

Once again, Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings and Beauregard Electric Cooperative Inc. in Deridder were hit hardest, losing 100% power for the second time in about six weeks. But, with help from hundreds of co-op lineworkers from a dozen other states organized by the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives, they restored power to many of their consumer-members in less than a week.

“Electricity is life,” said Mike Heinen, general manager of Jeff Davis EC, a small co-op with 11,000 meters and 49 employees. “No matter how exhausted we all are, you can’t say ‘no, I’m not going to do it today.’ If we don’t do our jobs, our members can’t get back up.”

Jeff Davis EC, which had restored power to about 75% of its system when Delta hit, was back up to about 50% power on Oct. 14 and to nearly 80% power by Oct. 18. Beauregard EC, which has 42,800 meters, completed its restoration work by Oct. 16.

“The good news is Delta wasn’t near as bad as Laura,” said Beauregard EC General Manager Kevin Turner. “We’re coming back a whole lot quicker.”

During Laura, about 4,000 of Beauregard’s power poles were knocked to the ground. In contrast, Delta brought down only about 50. However, Delta soaked parts of the service territory with 10 to 17 inches of water, requiring the co-op to use airboats and off-road vehicles to reach flooded areas where repairs were needed, Turner said.

“That slowed us down some,” he said. “It’s taken a few days longer this time to get the water to drain all out.”

Heinen estimates his co-op will be putting its system back together through December. Jeff Davis EC lost nearly 100 miles of transmission line during Laura and had just started rebuilding it when Delta hit. Fortunately, the rebuilt lines survived the second hurricane, he said.

“The most important thing is that nobody got hurt,” Heinen said. “Everything else can be replaced.”

Each co-op has had help from about 700 lineworkers who rushed in from co-ops in other states to help their Louisiana colleagues restore power after Delta. After Laura, about 1,200 out-of-state lineworkers came to help Beauregard EC and about 750 came to help Jeff Davis EC.

“You cannot do it without help from your brother and sister co-ops,” Heinen said. “Not this time. Not this big.”

But welcoming the out-of-state crews has been more complicated this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turner said.

“It’s like working with one hand tied behind your back with COVID,” he said.

More tents were required for visiting lineworkers to ensure social distancing—only 300 people could be housed in tents meant for 600. The co-op also had to find parking places for up to 1,200 trucks instead of 400 during Laura because crew members can’t ride in the same truck.

“You’ve got to fuel all those extra bucket trucks and diggers,” Turner said. “And fuel was already in short supply during the storm.”

Local co-op employees put in 16-hour days getting things ready for the visiting crews and working with them to restore power. A total of 18 employees from both co-ops lost their homes in Laura or Delta.

“But they all showed up here the next day,” Turner said. “It’s kind of in everybody’s DNA around here to keep working ‘til we get the power back on.”

Heinen said a young lineworker came to him one evening, tired after a day spent restoring power to a substation.

“When the lights came on, a family came out on their porch and cheered and thanked him,” he said. “That lineworker told me, ‘Now I know why I’m here.’”

In some cases, the crews are restoring lines to empty lots where homes have been flattened by the hurricanes, Heinen said.

“But those folks will be back,” he said. “This is their land. This is their home.”

Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.

2020 KMSA Virtual Fall Meeting

The Kentucky Member Services Association (KMSA) is pleased to announce the agenda for its annual Fall Meeting on October 22 and 23.

This all-virtual program is limited to two 2-hour sessions on Day 1 and one 3-hour session on Day 2. There is no charge for attending this virtual conference. Though we hope that all communicators and member services professionals attend, the links to these sessions will be open to all co-op personnel. Specific Microsoft Teams virtual meeting links for each day are being shared both in the e-mail invitation and in the state association newsletter.

Click here for the 2020 agenda.

Kentucky crews call ‘Tent City’ home in Louisiana

The 73 Kentucky electric cooperative line technicians helping restore power to Beauregard Electric Cooperative in Louisiana after Hurricane Delta have lots of company. More than 500 co-op line technicians are bunking in the co-op’s housing and staging area, known as “Tent City”, at the Beauregard Parish Regional Airport (photo above courtesy Owen Electric’s Delta update).

Crews restored power to about 10,000 meters on Tuesday. The co-op reports about 19,000 of its 42,000 meters remain without power this morning. Nine Kentucky co-ops are participating in the mutual aid effort.

Crews are dealing with damage from August’s Hurricane Laura (photo above courtesy South Kentucky RECC) plus the floodwaters of last week’s Hurricane Delta.

Click here to watch Kentucky co-op crews deploy to Hurricane Delta relief.
Click here to watch a video tribute to Kentucky co-op crews who responded to Hurricane Sally in Alabama.

Hurricane Delta: Latest Updates on Co-ops’ Restoration Efforts

Electric cooperatives in Louisiana and Mississippi made dramatic progress by Tuesday in restoring power after Hurricane Delta slammed into portions of the Gulf Coast that are still recovering from Hurricane Laura.

More than 120,000 people remained without power Tuesday in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, down from more than 800,000 on Saturday. That included about 55,000 co-op consumer-members in Louisiana and Mississippi, down from a high of more than 250,000. Two east Texas co-ops affected by Delta have completed restoration.

Delta made landfall near Creole, Louisiana, about 6 p.m. Central time Friday as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds of up to 100 miles per hour. Louisiana co-ops, still repairing damage from Laura, were hit hardest by Delta as it caused fallen wires, damaged poles and severe flooding. The four Louisiana co-ops still recovering from Delta reported about 46,500 meters without power Tuesday. They had more than four times that many outages on Saturday.

“Hurricane Delta came ashore in already storm-torn southwest Louisiana and moved northeastward through the state, causing damage to all our ALEC member electric cooperatives’ systems,” said Jeff Arnold, CEO of the statewide association. “The Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives (ALEC) has once again initialized our mutual-aid network to recruit help from lineworkers from other states to assist in the recovery.”

A day after Hurricane Delta made landfall as a Category 2 storm, floodwaters cover a roadway near structures damaged by Hurricane Laura in Cameron, Louisiana. (Photo By: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Beauregard Electric Cooperative Inc. in Deridder and Jeff Davis Electric Co-op in Jennings both lost power to 100% of their meters, just as they did when Laura struck about six weeks ago—affecting 42,800 meters for Beauregard EC and 11,000 for Jeff Davis EC.

By Tuesday morning, Beauregard EC had restored power to 45% of its system and expected to reach 50% by the end of the day, said General Manager Kevin Turner.

“It still seems hard to believe that we have been hit with two major hurricanes in a matter of weeks,” Turner said. “Even though we are dealing with the residual effects of Delta’s rains, in terms of high water and flooded areas, I think we are making great strides in restoring our members quickly. I’m really proud of all the hard work of all of our employees.”

Jeff Davis EC was able to begin restoring power Monday after ramping up manpower from out-of-state co-op crews. The co-op now has more than 700 visiting lineworkers helping them, the same number that came in after Laura hit.

“Today we were able to reach a significant milestone restoring power once again to some consumer-members,” Jeff Davis EC General Manager Mike Heinen said in a press release Monday night. He said the co-op was able to restore nearly 1,300 meters.

“We had to send our additional line crews, from Hurricane Laura, home to keep them out of harm’s way prior to Hurricane Delta,” Heinen said. “However, they have been traveling from their home states to return and continue to help us in our restoration and reconstruction efforts. I’m incredibly grateful for all the extra help we have received.”

Jeff Davis EC and Beauregard EC, with help from other co-op crews throughout the country, were just wrapping up restoration work from Laura when Delta hit.

“Prior to Hurricane Delta making landfall, we had restored power to approximately 75% of our consumer-members,” Heinen said. “Everyone is storm battered and weary, but as soon as the winds subsided, we got back to work assessing the most recent damages. Our consumer-members and employees understand they live in a hurricane prone region, and they are resilient. They will just pick up where they left off and continue the charge.”

In a bit of good news, both Jeff Davis EC and Beauregard EC reported that their systems suffered less overall damage from Delta than from Laura. Beauregard re-energized three of its substations by Sunday and expects to re-energize the rest by Wednesday. New transmission lines and structures that Jeff Davis erected after Laura survived Delta.

“If there is a silver lining to an area getting hit with two hurricanes within a number of weeks, it is that Hurricane Delta did not inflict the same level of devastation to our distribution infrastructure,” said Turner, who expects full power to be restored at Beauregard EC within two weeks. “In Laura, miles and miles of three-phase distribution lines were destroyed. After Delta, many of those lines and poles are still standing.”

More than 100,000 members of Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership Corp. in Lafayette lost power Friday night, but that number had been reduced to 20,745 by Tuesday morning.

“Crews are continuing to work in all areas,” SLEMCO said on its website. “We have hundreds of contract crew members from several different states working side-by-side with our own crews in damage assessment, power restoration and right-of-way tree trimming. Crews are still working on feeders today and beginning to work on smaller outages in some areas, too.”

Crews from Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership Corp. in Lafayette restore power in the wake of Hurricane Delta. When Delta hit, it knocked out power to more than 100,000 members, but that number had dropped to less than 21,000 by Tuesday. (Photo Courtesy: SLEMCO)

Dixie Electric Membership Corp. in Baton Rouge told its members Sunday that Delta “has been one of the worst weather events to impact the DEMCO system” since the 2016 flood in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. Early Saturday morning, there were nearly 42,000 meters without power. As of Tuesday morning, co-op crews had slashed that number to 2,092 after welcoming help from Alabama and Florida co-ops. Eight Florida co-ops have sent 55 lineworkers to assist DEMCO, said Alisia Hounshell, director of communications and statewide services at Florida Electric Cooperative Association.

“We will do everything we can to safely restore power to every meter as quickly as possible,” DEMCO CEO and General Manager Randy Pierce wrote in a message to members.

Claiborne Electric Cooperative in Homer finished restoring power Tuesday to all but of a handful of meters after initially sustaining outages to 21% of its system, or 5,000 meters.

In Mississippi, only one of the four co-ops damaged by Delta still had power outages Tuesday. Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association in Lorman reported 7,937 meters without power, or 31% of its system. On Saturday, four of the state’s co-ops had a total of 50,000 meters without power, but other Mississippi co-ops rushed in to help their hard-hit colleagues, bringing outage numbers down quickly, said Ron Stewart, senior vice president of communications at the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.

“We have restored 50% of our system in three days,” Southwest Electric said in a press release. “We have 194 lineworkers spread out across our nine-county service area repairing damage. So far, we have found over 150 broken poles and cross-arms. That is MORE than we had after Hurricane Katrina. The damage is systemwide. Our lineworkers, the contractors and the crews from the seven sister cooperatives are working as fast as possible while keeping the safety of themselves and the public in mind.”

In Texas, Jasper-Newton Electric Cooperative in Kirbyville has restored power to all 4,700 members affected by Delta. Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative initially reported about 2,600 outages but completed its repairs over the weekend. The co-op sent crews to help Beauregard EC in Louisiana.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.

Kentucky electric co-ops deploy to Louisiana for Hurricane Delta recovery

Crews from at least ten Kentucky co-ops gearing up to restore power

In response to a request from an electric cooperative in Louisiana, at least 70 electric co-op employees from Kentucky are joining power restoration efforts after Hurricane Delta brought even more damage to the same area devastated by Hurricane Laura in August.

Delta made landfall late Friday night as a strong Category 2 hurricane and swept through southwest Louisiana. At the peak of the storm, more than 90,000 electric co-op consumer-members across Louisiana were without electricity due to fallen wires, damaged poles, and severe flooding.

“Hurricane Delta came ashore in the already storm-torn southwest Louisiana and moved northeastward through the state, causing damage to all our ALEC member electric cooperatives’ systems,” said Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives (ALEC) CEO Jeff Arnold. “The Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives (ALEC) has once again initialized our mutual-aid network to recruit help from line workers from other states to assist in the recovery.”

The storm caused substantial damage to the infrastructure at Beauregard Electric Cooperative, where Kentucky co-op mutual aid crews are now heading. All of the co-op’s 42,648 consumer-members lost power—an event seen for only the third time in its 80-year history, including Hurricane Rita in 2005, Hurricane Laura just six weeks ago, and now Hurricane Delta.

Some of the same Kentucky co-ops that deployed crews to Hurricane Sally last month are gearing up for more hurricane relief. In September, 87 crews from twelve Kentucky electric co-ops helped restore power to a co-op in southwest Alabama.

“Our members were so supportive through Hurricane Laura, and I have confidence that we will have that support through this restoration effort as well,” said Kay Fox, vice president of marketing and member services for Beauregard Electric Cooperative. “Our crews will join forces again with other states to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.”

The top priority of each local Kentucky co-op is service to its own consumer-members.  Before committing resources to mutual aid requests, each co-op ensures it has ample crews available for all local needs, including routine maintenance and emergencies.

The list of Kentucky electric cooperatives set to deploy lineworkers includes Cumberland Valley Electric, Fleming Mason Energy, Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative, Kenergy, Nolin RECC, Owen Electric, Shelby Energy, South Kentucky RECC, Warren Rural Electric and West Kentucky RECC.

Through a careful coordination of mutual aid from co-ops across the Midwest and Southeast, co-op crews are assigned to specific co-ops in need of assistance. On daily conference calls, safety teams from each state assess optimal deployments.

“Even before Delta made landfall, co-op crew members in Kentucky were already communicating that they wanted to help,” said Chris Perry, President and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “By responding to natural disasters in other states, Kentucky co-op crews gain invaluable experience to help them respond to outages here at home. We are praying for the safety of co-op crews and the people they are helping.”

In addition, United Utility Supply Cooperative is responding to Hurricane Delta needs. The Kentucky-based co-op has implemented its storm emergency plan, providing round-the-clock support to meet the material needs of co-ops.

Because the national network of transmission and distribution infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives is built to federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their knowledge of the system’s engineering.