After a relatively quiet summer storm season, Alabama’s co-ops responded to two major hurricanes – one hundreds of miles away, and another much closer to home. And we’re pleased to report that all Alabama co-op crews have been released from their mutual aid duty.
Remember Hurricane Florence? She made landfall near Wilmington, N.C., on Sept. 14 and slowed to a crawl as the rain bands and thunderstorms inundated the Carolinas. Outage numbers in co-op areas in North Carolina alone topped 300,000 after the storm came ashore.
Alabama co-ops sent 102 men in 68 trucks to seven co-ops in North Carolina. Eleven Alabama co-ops went to the Tarheel state: Black Warrior, Central Alabama, Cherokee, Cullman, Dixie, Pea River, Pioneer, Southern Pine, Tallapoosa River, Tombigbee and Wiregrass. Another seven were ready and willing to go: Coosa Valley, Covington, Joe Wheeler, Marshall-DeKalb, North Alabama, Sand Mountain and South Alabama.
Leaders at Baldwin had another concern. At the time Florence was threatening, there was a tropical disturbance brewing in the Gulf, and co-op leaders had to be certain their crews wouldn’t be needed at home. Fortunately, the disturbance did not develop into an organized storm.
Shortly thereafter – and much closer to home – Hurricane Michael developed quickly in the Gulf and slammed into the Florida panhandle on Oct. 10. The massive Category 4 storm cut a swath through Florida, southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia; its devastating winds uprooted and snapped trees, damaged homes and buildings and took out power to 2 million electric meters in six states, including about 375,000 members of electric cooperatives.
The storm took out power to nearly 26,000 homes and businesses served by Alabama co-ops, including 18,000 outages in Wiregrass’ service territory alone.
As residents started the long task of cleaning up after the storm, co-op crews went right to work to help restore power.
State crews assisted the Alabama co-ops first; six co-ops went to Pea River EC, and 11 went to Wiregrass EC. AREA sent staffers to the EMA state office in Clanton and safety staff to both co-ops to help. More than 200 personnel from the state’s co-ops responded to the call to help their sister cooperatives.
The crews completed their work in Alabama by Oct. 19, and turned their attention to Georgia and Florida. Responding to help Georgia co-ops: Baldwin, Clarke-Washington, Coosa Valley, Joe Wheeler, North Alabama, Sand Mountain and Tallapoosa River.
Those who traveled to Florida co-ops: Black Warrior, Central Alabama, Cherokee, Covington, Dixie, Pioneer, South Alabama and Southern Pine.
By Oct. 24, the crews helping in Georgia were released, and many went on to the Florida co-ops or rotated with other crews from their home co-op to head to Florida. Assisting both the West Florida and Gulf Coast co-ops: Baldwin, Black Warrior, Central Alabama, Cherokee, Clarke-Washington, Covington, Cullman, Dixie, Marshall-DeKalb, Pea River, Pioneer, Sand Mountain, Southern Pine, Tallapoosa River, Tombigbee and Wiregrass.
The Alabama crews were released as of Nov. 7, which is a testament to the hard work done by all the co-op personnel in Florida. To accomplish such a massive power restoration effort in less than a month is a monumental task, and all employees and board members of all of our co-ops should be proud of a job very well done.
The co-ops that received help are deeply grateful for not only the help of line crews, right-of-way personnel and safety staff, but also for those who worked behind the scenes to lodge, feed and take care of visiting personnel. Such work often goes unheralded, but is not unnoticed.
While the storm is long gone, the need for help will exist for some time to come. If you’d like to help, the not-for-profit Line Workers Disaster Recovery Fund has been incorporated by Gulf Coast EC to provide disaster assistance funding for hurricane victims. The address to mail checks is 722 West Highway 22, Wewahitchka, FL 32465. For more detail on its incorporation, click here.