Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives are mobilizing to respond to outages caused by Hurricane Sally, which has left more than 78,000 members of Baldwin EMC, the state’s largest electric cooperative, without power and residential and business property destroyed or severely damaged. The figure represents 97 percent of the cooperative’s meters.
At least five other electric cooperatives in the south central portion of the state are also experiencing outages to at least 8,000 customers due to the storm. Two more cooperatives in the southwest portion of the state also have outages but conditions remain too dangerous for accurate assessments at this time.
Preliminary plans are to send crews from within Alabama to help restore power to in-state cooperatives hit by the storm, and to coordinate help from out-of-state co-op crews to assist in hard-hit Baldwin County, according to Matty Garr, vice-president of statewide services for the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA), which is coordinating the mutual aid response. Baldwin has requested at least 1,600 men to help in the effort.
“The AREA storm coordination cell is working tirelessly to coordinate the movements of supporting cooperatives from Nebraska to Delaware to supply the mutual aid needs of our Alabama cooperatives,” said Garr. “With thousands of cooperative line workers already deployed to Louisiana, we are calling crews from across the U.S. to meet the need in Alabama so we can begin the restoration process as safely and quickly as possible.”
Sally’s strong winds and heavy rains have damaged power lines and equipment. There was also damage to some transmission lines that feed power to the substations and equipment in some locations is under water. Alabama’s 22 rural electric cooperatives deliver power to more than 1 million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, and they maintain more than 71,000 miles of power line.