Hurricane Michael Restoration Press Release — Sunday Night, October 14, 2018
Wiregrass Electric Cooperative ends its fourth full day of restoration since Hurricane Michael caused 18,000 outages. More than 160 line workers will work through the evening to continue to restore power. Today, they were also joined by more than 60 additional crews to help face some of the hardest hit areas.
“I can’t overstate the damage, and how massive the effort to overcome it is” said Brad Kimbro, Chief Operating Officer at Wiregrass Electric Cooperative. “These new workers were brought in and prepped today to begin working tomorrow.”
One of the most important aspects of briefing is discussing safety. “Safety is our absolute, number one priority,” said Kimbro. “We work hard and as quickly as possible, but only if we are working 100 percent safe. We will not put any worker at risk in order to speed up restoration. We want every single worker to go back home to their family as healthy as they arrived.”
WEC has drastically reduced the number of outages since the storm arrived, but areas left to restore are especially damaged. “You can think of restoring power like restoring a road system,” said Kimbro. “Transmission lines that feed our substations are like the interstate system. They must be repaired first if you want any traffic to be able to flow. WEC does not service or own transmission lines. Only Alabama Power or PowerSouth handles that task.”
“Next you have highways,” Kimbro continued. “They’re still a big road but they pass through towns and stop a red lights. This is like our three-phase and two-phase lines. We work to restore these next after transmission lines are repaired.”
The last type of circuits are WEC’s single-phase circuits. “These are like the county roads,” says Kimbro. “They don’t move a lot of volume but they have to be restored in order to reach individual homes.
Kimbro said members sometimes get concerned if they haven’t yet seen a service truck in their community. “That’s typically because one of our three-phase or two-phase lines miles away must be repaired before their single phase line can function,” he explained. “Just because you don’t see our trucks on your street doesn’t mean we aren’t repairing your outage.”
Kimbro wanted to assure all members that WEC would not stop its efforts until power was restored to every single member.
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.”
As of 4 p.m., WEC had the following outage numbers:
Columbia Substation – 717 members (73 percent out)
Slocomb Substation – 215 members (25 percent out)
Burch Pond Substation – 88 members (6 percent out)
Limestone Substation – 1,459 members (53 percent out)
Ashford Substation – 711 members (47 percent out)
Cottonwood Substation – 1,518 members (88 percent out)
Rehobeth Substation – 798 members (38 percent out)
System Total Outage – 5,692 (Down from 18,000)
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.