Mutual aid crews demonstrate power of cooperatives
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 4, 2023) – After a day of relentless high winds and hurricane-strength gusts, Kentucky’s 26 electric cooperatives are making progress restoring electric service and are advising consumer-members it will take days before all power is restored.
Co-ops report hundreds of snapped utility poles and thousands of power lines down across the 117 counties served by co-ops across the commonwealth.
Because surrounding states were also affected by the damaging winds, mutual aid crews are traveling from farther distances to help. Coordinated by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of co-ops, crews are arriving from Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
At the height of the windstorm, more than 300,000 consumer-members lost power in Kentucky. As of 1:00pm (EST) on Saturday, about 148,000 members remained without power. In the initial response, restoration efforts were complicated by persistent winds of more than 40 miles per hour, well after the gusts that topped 70 miles per hour. In addition, soft ground from heavy rains slows the progress of heavy equipment such as the line trucks to access damaged infrastructure. Co-op crews welcomed the calm conditions on Saturday.
“The damage from this event is as widespread as any natural disaster I have ever seen in Kentucky co-op history,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “All 24 distribution co-ops and both of our generation and transmission co-ops sustained damage in the windstorm.”
In a briefing at the state capitol Saturday morning, Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledged power restoration efforts and the tall task ahead of crews.
“The biggest damage appears to be trees and power lines and the poles on the power lines,” Beshear said. “Utility partners are working quickly to restore services, but this may take some time. This is very significant, widespread damage throughout Kentucky. It is multiple utility providers that are working and it’s going to take at least days to get power up in some places.”
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker echoed co-op safety messaging, reminding Kentuckians about generator safety and staying away from power lines.
“Always remember not to use generators indoors,” Slinker said. “Countless numbers of poles and lines are down – always assume they are hot, and do not get near them. Report these downed lines to authorities.”
Kentucky-based United Utility Supply Cooperative is assisting with storm response to cooperatives across the region. Its Cooperative Distribution Center in Louisville is responding with transformers, power lines, poles and all other materials needed to outfit an electric utility.
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.