Electric co-ops respond to Hurricane Dorian

Co-ops in south-eastern states are ready to respond to potential outages

As Hurricane Dorian heads north, rural electric co-ops across the US are assisting with recovery efforts.

Seven people lost their lives and 13,000 homes were damaged or destroyed when the storm hit the Bahamas on 1 September.

Now the USA is taking the hit. In Tennessee, 22 lineworkers from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg have travelled to Georgia and North Carolina to restore power to the areas affected by the hurricane.

“Lineworkers have a desire to serve others,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It always impresses me how quickly our crews volunteer to help, even without knowing the conditions they will face or how long they will be away from their families.” The association coordinates mutual aid assistance for co-ops across the state.

Other co-op federations are doing the same. North Carolina Electric Co-operatives says its co-ops are prepared to respond quickly in major outage situations due to the fact that crews are based in the local communities. They encouraged members to keep their cell phones charged and consider purchasing an external cell phone battery pack, in case the hurricane leads to prolonged outages. The state’s 26 electric co-operatives collectively serve approximately 2.5 million people in 93 of the state’s 100 counties.

“Our state has seen its share of destructive hurricanes during the last few years, and co-operative line crews are storm-tested,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president and chief operating officer of association services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “They are highly trained, highly experienced and committed to restoring power to members as quickly as is safely possible.”

To prepare for the storm, the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia have declared a state of emergency while a number of coastal counties from Florida to North Carolina have issues mandatory evacuation order.

While predicting the path and timing of the hurricane is difficult, rural electric co-ops say contract and mutual aid crews are prepared to reposition to respond to projected storm track changes.

“We are prepared to respond to extended outages around the clock as soon as it is safe to do so,” said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson. “As the storm track continues to shift, we are praying for the best and preparing for the worst.”

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