Electric cooperative line crews worked early this week to restore service to more than 100,000 meters in several states following a weekend winter storm that caused widespread damage to power lines and utility poles across parts of the central and Eastern U.S. While work continued in some areas Tuesday, most co-op members had power restored by late Monday.
“The rate at which service is restored has varied based upon hundreds of fallen trees which must be cleared and removed,” said Terri Statham, manager of media relations for Georgia Electric Membership Corp. The statewide association reported about 70,000 co-op-served meters out after snow, ice and high winds blasted across the state.
About 2,900 meters, primarily in northeastern Georgia, were still without power early Tuesday. Restoration work continued across the service territory of Clarkesville-based Habersham EMC, said Statham, adding that parts of the state received as much as eight inches of snow.
Co-ops across the Southeast had prepared for serious service disruptions based on forecasts heading into the weekend. Arrangements were made for mutual aid from states outside the threatened region, and some crews still working in the area following storms earlier this month were repositioned to assist where needed.
In Kentucky, co-op crews and contractors worked Tuesday to restore power to about 6,500 meters. Gray-based Cumberland Valley Electric reported about 3,400 meters out, and Jackson Energy Cooperative, headquartered in McKee, was working through outages affecting about 2,700 meters on its system.
The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina reported about 2,200 outages Tuesday morning. Most of those were on systems serving members in northern, inland areas of the state. Pageland-based Lynches River Electric Cooperative was working to restore service to about 1,300 of its meters, and Pickens-based Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative had nearly 700 meters out.
In North Carolina, co-ops reported 18,400 meters out of service Sunday afternoon, but crews began assessing damage and restoring power as weather conditions improved. High winds pushed outage numbers beyond 20,000, but less than 4,000 meters remained out of service by midday Monday. By dawn Tuesday, about 150 co-op-served meters were without power.
Co-op crews continue to take pandemic mitigation precautions, sequestering crews for lodging and meals. Some statewide associations have reported shortages of contractors due in part to COVID-19 exposures.
Kentucky Electric Cooperatives is pleased to unveil a new statewide outage map designed for timely and accurate updates to exclusively reflect co-op outages.
The statewide association has worked with the developer of PowerOutage.US collects, records, and aggregates live power outage data from utilities all over the United States, with the goal to create the single most reliable and complete source of power outage information available. To protect the privacy of the utility customers, PowerOutage.US does not collect or sell address or meter level data.
Because our previous co-op outage map relied on data from Kentucky Emergency Management and the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, it often reflected all outages in Kentucky counties, not just electric cooperatives. This new partnership with PowerOutage.US allows us to show only co-op outages.
In addition to a display of existing outages, the new map includes a graph of outages over the last 24 hours, specific per county and coop. Data is refreshed every 10 minutes.
The outage map reflects the 23 local distribution cooperatives that have outage maps.
Dan Waddle, senior vice president of NRECA International, has been named to the Cooperative Hall of Fame by the Cooperative Development Foundation for his decades of leadership in bringing electricity to rural communities throughout the world.
The induction ceremony will take place Oct. 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Waddle is one of four leaders from a variety of different types of co-ops to receive the honor for 2022.
“I’m touched by the actions of my colleagues and friends who nominated me and lobbied for this honor to be awarded to me,” Waddle said. “At the same time, I feel like this honor is really about the actions of the team that I’ve worked with for the past 30 years. I have a part in that team, but my colleagues have worked tirelessly and with as much dedication as me.”
Leaders of the nonprofit Cooperative Development Foundation said Waddle has used his knowledge and skills to help reduce poverty in developing nations. NRECA International has helped establish more than 250 electric utilities and electric co-ops in 48 countries.
“Under Dan’s leadership, NRECA International has implemented successful, sustainable, scalable rural electrification programs that improve education, health care, safety, and economic opportunities in communities across the world,” the foundation said in a statement announcing the honor.
“These cooperative ventures provide electric power to support agriculture, small and medium community enterprises, improved lighting and telecommunications for schools and health facilities, and for other public facilities including security lighting in village streets and common areas.”
Waddle and his colleagues have helped bring the benefits of the cooperative model to a host of nations, including Bangladesh, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Uganda, Liberia, Yemen, South Sudan, Colombia and many more, the foundation noted.
“This recognition of Dan’s leadership of NRECA International and his personal commitment to global electrification is well deserved,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “He has led countless projects to bring safe, reliable and affordable electricity to communities around the globe. NRECA International has worked to bring electricity to more than 160 million people. Dan’s vision and enduring commitment has played a significant role in that success.”
Waddle said his three decades at NRECA International started out with what was supposed to be a brief one-year collaboration. After completing his doctorate degree in engineering at Texas A&M in 1987, Waddle went to work for Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where he managed a series of renewable energy electrification projects in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
He accepted a one-year position with NRECA International to design and lead an electrification project in Bolivia and intended to return to the lab after that.
“The first year was eye-opening to me,” Waddle said. “The needs of the people, the team we attracted, and the quality of the work made me want to continue. I extended my contract for a second year and then a third and fourth. After four years, I said, ‘OK, this is where I want to be.’ I found that’s how I wanted to spend my professional life. It’s been enormously satisfying.”
Waddle officially joined NRECA International in 1991 and said that every year since has been filled with challenges and opportunities. He has seen electrification projects spur economic development in remote areas and change people’s lives for the better.
“These projects often require a leap of faith,” Waddle said. “You can’t bank on that. It’s remarkable to me to see that the vast majority of projects over the years have been quite successful. It doesn’t happen overnight; it’s gradual. But the long-term results have been striking.”
Kentucky electric cooperative mutual aid crews from Kenergy and Warren RECC are helping restore power to co-ops in Virginia after what is described as “a top five worst winter storm” on Sunday knocked out power to more than 100,000 co-op consumer-members in that state.
Kenergy sent three two-man crews and Warren sent four two-man crews, leaving Kentucky on Monday and beginning work on Tuesday.
As of yesterday, the 13 electric cooperatives in Virginia had restored power to approximately 103,000 member accounts, down from the peak of more than 155,000.
“We anticipate almost all co-op customers will have power by Friday evening,” the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives said. “Individual outages will persist through the weekend, as crews continue to cut through fallen trees and debris to locate outages. Upcoming inclement weather could also delay and complicate further restoration efforts, including for crews coming from out of state.”
More than 100 lineworkers from 40 cooperatives in four states joined hundreds of cooperative line crews and contractors in restoring power to affected areas.
From Southside, Kenergy crews plan to transfer to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, while Warren RECC crews are slated to help restore service at Northern Neck EC.
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.
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.
One month shy of his 81st birthday, Ted Hampton emerged from the offices of the southeastern Kentucky electric cooperative he has headed since 1964 to greet guests in the co-op lobby.
On this warm August day, he’d just completed his regular office-to-office check-in with Cumberland Valley Electric employees, turning his attention to visitors from United Utility Supply.
That an octogenarian is the full-time CEO of an electric utility is certainly remarkable. But for Hampton, it’s just the beginning of his story.
In mid-December of 2020, five days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the stubbornly strong Brush Creek native buckled.
“His oxygen levels were alarmingly low,” Hampton’s wife, Margie, recalled. “After an ambulance rushed him to the ER, they put him on the ventilator immediately. The doctor came out and told me, ‘I don’t think he’s going to make it.’”
Margie sobbed as she relived her disbelief and the rush to airlift Ted 100 miles to Pikeville Medical Center because the Corbin hospital did not have any intensive care unit beds available.
Safety protocols prohibited hospital visitors.
When Margie was finally able to see Ted several weeks later, he had not made any progress and had reached the maximum length of time he could be intubated. Doctors asked Margie to make a critical decision. Should Ted remain on life support? If so, they would remove the tube threaded down his throat and replace it with one inserted into his trachea that would connect to a ventilator to keep pumping oxygen into his lungs. Would he want that?
Margie said Ted’s brother, Elbert Hampton, recalled a recent conversation he’d had with him.
“Ted said, ‘If I get this COVID, I am going to fight like hell, because I’ve got too much to live for,’” Margie said Elbert told her. “I said, ‘OK. That’s all I need to know.’”
She directed the hospital to put the trach tube in.
Margie said a prayer with their pastor, Paula Farmer, ended by “asking God to just go in the room and touch Ted on the shoulder.”
That night, after reading her Bible and saying her prayers, Margie dreamed she was in the hospital room with Ted, “and suddenly the Lord just appeared in the room.”
“I would explain it to you if I could. He just appeared in the room, and I sat down toward the foot of the bed, and He just came in and laid His hand on Ted’s shoulder,” Margie said. “I called my pastor the next day and told her about the dream. And I said, ‘He is going to be all right.’ And, not long after that, he started improving.”
After 41 harrowing days in Pikeville, Ted was transferred on Jan. 29 to the Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center. He was still relying on a ventilator but improving each day.
Forty-five days later, the trachea tube was removed. He was finally breathing without assistance for the first time in three months.
On March 31, after 103 days of hospitalization, Ted returned home, just in time to celebrate Easter at New Hope Ministries Church of God.
“When I walked into church, the pastor said, ‘We have a miracle boy with us today. Here comes Mr. Miracle. God has saved him for a purpose.’ And I agree with that,” Ted said. “Prayer is extremely important. And friendship. Friends at church and at work and acquaintances. Those are all important and give you encouragement.”
Within a week of coming home, he was back in the office.
A COVID-19 vaccine was not yet available when Ted caught the virus, but he’s encouraging co-op employees and their families to get the shots now.
“I want to tell everyone not to underestimate how dangerous [COVID-19] is,” Ted said. “They should step up and get the shots. If they don’t do it to protect themselves, then to protect their families and protect their neighbors and schoolchildren.”
Though he’s now back at work full time, he said he’s still weak and not at full strength.
“The doctor said it would take six months to a year to get back to where I was,” he said. “Normally … I would be going to the farm, driving a tractor, bush-hogging, taking care of my honeybees.”
He plans to be back on a tractor by springtime, with gratitude for those who cared for and prayed for him, and an urgency that Kentuckians take COVID-19 seriously.
“I just want to reemphasize that all parents should take those shots and the children should take those shots when they are eligible,” Ted concludes. “Life is too precious to waste.”
Story by Joe Arnold
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Kentucky Living magazine. The full version of this story can be found at the Kentucky Living website and will be reprinted in the March 2022 issue of RE Magazine.
Following the devastating tornadoes in Kentucky on December 10 and 11, and due to multiple requests from across the state and country, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association, has organized the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund to assist members of the co-op family who face challenges after disasters, and for the aid of communities served by co-ops.
Though we are confident the IRS will ultimately determine this fund to be a valid 501(c)(3) non-profit, which will allow for tax deductibility of any contribution, this process can be time consuming. Until the final determination is made by the IRS, there is a risk of donations not being recognized as tax deductible.
As such, the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund will accept donations, and when determination is made, notify all donors.
Checks should be made payable to: Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund and can be mailed to the statewide office:
Electric cooperative crews, mutual aid workers and contractors are making steady progress this week restoring electricity after deadly tornadoes swept through parts of the South and Midwest over the weekend.
Damage to distribution and transmission lines, poles and support structures in some areas is extensive, and several co-op-served communities will face months of rebuilding and recovery from the massive tornadoes and powerful winds that ravaged their communities.
More than 100,000 co-op-served meters were out of service in the immediate aftermath of the storms, but local crews and contractors began assessing damage and making repairs as soon as winds subsided enough for them to work safely.
In hard-hit Kentucky, co-ops faced devastation in the communities they serve as they worked to restore power “surrounded by debris, destruction and an uncertain future for the western Kentucky communities they call home,” the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives said in a statement.
“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of life, homes, businesses and livelihoods in our communities,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives and United Utility Supply Cooperative.
At least 74 people have died in Kentucky as a result of the tornadoes, state officials said Tuesday.
“The co-op mission is to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve, and co-op crews are doing what they can to try to help our members recover from this disaster,” Perry said. “I want to personally thank the crews for their incredible response within such a short time.”
More than 80,000 co-op consumer-members in the state lost power Saturday. By Tuesday afternoon, that number had dropped to about 5,600. However, the pace of restoration is likely to slow as co-op crews deal with the most heavily damaged areas, the statewide association said.
Kentucky co-op employees were among those who suffered severe damage to their homes. The statewide association has created the nonprofit Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund to help them and the communities they serve.
“Time and time again, Kentucky electric cooperative employees put their personal lives and families on the side to address the needs of their communities and the wider co-op community,” Perry said.
Louisville-based United Utility Supply Cooperative delivered multiple truckloads of materials and supplies to affected co-ops, deploying office staff to join the co-op’s truck drivers and deliver extra loads as needed, said Joe Arnold, vice president of strategic communications for the statewide association.
“Aware of the forecasts for severe weather on Friday night, UUS worked with its transformer vendor, ERMCO, to secure an extra supply of transformers to be able to deliver them where they were most needed after the storms,” Arnold said. “Despite supply chain concerns, UUS has been able to deliver needed supplies to co-ops.”
In Tennessee, co-ops have worked to reduce outages from 20,000 to less than 4,000, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association said in a press release Tuesday.
Neighboring co-ops were working to help Gibson Electric Membership Corp. restore power to hard-hit areas of northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky. As of Tuesday, the co-op reported that it had about 1,000 members without electricty, down from about 1,700 the night before. However, the co-op was continuing to receive new outage reports even as it was restoring service.
“Even with all of Gibson EMC’s lineworkers and lineworkers from neighboring utilities, repairing the monumental damage is a painfully slow process,” said Dan Rodamaker, president and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect, the co-op’s broadband subsidiary. “We know how very difficult a lengthy outage is for our members and we are pushing hard to restore electric and internet service as quickly as we safely can.”
It may take several more days to restore power to all of Tennessee’s co-op members, the statewide association said.
“The images coming out of northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky are truly remarkable,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Even in the face of tragedy, it is encouraging to see how many rush to provide assistance when neighbors need help.”
In Arkansas, 8,000 co-op members were out of power initially, but that number had plummeted to about 50 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the outage map on the website of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
Co-op crews also restored service to several thousand co-op meters in Mississippi and Illinois over the weekend, and power had been completely restored by Tuesday.
In Missouri, crews worked Monday to repair a high-voltage transmission line connecting two power plants owned by Springfield-based Associated Electric Cooperative to the grid. The G&T lost 17 steel structures, and officials have said long-term repairs will be needed on the line.
“Missouri crews restored service to about 15,000 co-op served meters across the state over the weekend,” said Jim McCarty, a spokesman for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. As of Tuesday afternoon, the statewide association’s outage map showed just 84 co-op members without power.
Erin Kelly and Derrill Holly are staff writers for NRECA.