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Wiregrass Electric Cooperative continues restoration efforts

Matt Boster

Viewed: 2940

Posted by: Matt Boster
Date: Oct 15 2018 2:41 PM

HARTFORD, Alabama — Wiregrass Electric Cooperative began its fifth full day of restoration efforts with 3,683 members without power. On Sunday afternoon, WEC received additional help from other cooperatives and right of way crews, which brings WEC’s total workforce to 225. “We are very appreciative for all the help we have received from our sister cooperatives and contract crews,” says WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro. “This is a massive restoration project and the help we have received is very much appreciated.

More crews arrived on Sunday and they are not leaving until every home’s power is restored.” WEC has made great progress in the last five days by bringing the total outage number down from 18,000, but progress could slow some as crews begin working on single-phase lines. The single-phase lines and tap lines that deliver power to your transformer take the same amount of effort to repair as the three-phase and two-phase lines, but only restore power to a small number of homes.

That’s why the “members without power” number reported over the next few days will fall at a much slower pace than it did in recent days. WEC also wants to let members know that if their power has been restored and then goes off again that it is part of the restoration process. “If your power goes out again, don’t panic,” says Kimbro. “In order to get other repairs made we are having to deenergize some lines so our crews can work safely. That will cause some members to lose power again, but it should not be off for an unreasonable amount of time.”

Kimbro stressed that WEC’s goal is to restore power quickly, but the main goal is to keep linemen and members safe through this process. “We will not sacrifice safety in order to restore power quickly,” Kimbro says. “We are stressing safety to our crews by briefing them before every job and we will continue to do that. Our employees’ and members’ safety are our top priority.” WEC also wants to express its thanks for all the cooperatives and companies who have sent help, as well as all the well wishes, kind words and prayers from its members.

In light of the massive restoration effort, WEC has decided to make changes to its annual meeting format. The meeting will still take place on Friday, Oct. 19 but will be a quick abbreviated meeting. “If members have already voted through our mail in process then they do not have to attend,” says Kimbro. “If members have not voted then they can come register and vote and then they may leave.”

The meeting will be moved from the warehouse location where it is normally held to the community room of the Hartford office. “The warehouse where we normally hold the meeting will not be in a condition to have the meeting due to our active storm restoration efforts and safety concerns for members and the public,” says Kimbro.

Registration will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The business portion of the meeting will begin at noon with the agenda laid out in WEC’s bylaws. The business meeting will be brief and will be broadcast live on Facebook Live for members not in attendance. As of 8 a.m., WEC had the following outage numbers: Columbia Substation - 492 members (50 percent out) Slocomb Substation - 112 members (13 percent out) Burch Pond Substation - 1 member (.07 percent out) Limestone Substation - 997 members (36 percent out) Ashford Substation - 386 members (26 percent out) Cottonwood Substation - 1,072 members (62 percent out) Rehobeth Substation - 489 members (23 percent out) System Total Outage - 3,683 (Down from 18,000) The cooperative has released an Outage Prediction Map to help members estimate outage times. The map outlines the different areas of destruction the cooperative is encountering, as well as a guide for when members may expect restoration. The areas worst-hit by the hurricane are around Cottonwood, Columbia, Ashford, Rehobeth and Limestone. “Members in these areas will most likely be without power for several more days,” said Kimbro. The map is broken up into three shades of color: BLUE — WEC has finished completing these areas of restoration. GREEN — WEC has most of these areas restored. Some, however, will be Monday or Tuesday before they are repaired. RED — This is what the cooperative is referring to as “ground zero,” where the heaviest winds and damage took place. The best-case scenario is that WEC will have power restored to most members in this area by Thursday, but Friday is more likely. It’s possible some people may not have power until the weekend. “We encourage everyone in these zones to prepare and make arrangements accordingly,” said Kimbro. “We understand this is frustrating, but we want everyone to know we are working as quickly as possible given the massive amount of damage our system sustained. We hope everyone can view this map and make arrangements accordingly.”

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