Pitching in: Co-Op crews head south again

Pitching in: Co-Op crews head south again

A fallen tree lays over the road.

Ohio co-op linemen made a second trip to the southeast United States to help co-ops recover from tropical weather.

The 2018 hurricane season was a busy one in the southern part of the United States and, as always, Ohio electric cooperatives were decisive and quick to respond with aid to their fellow co-ops in need.

Hurricane Michael was particularly destructive as it came to shore in Florida’s western panhandle in mid-October and tore eastward through Georgia and the Carolinas before heading back out to sea.

While several Florida co-ops bore the full brunt of the storm, seeing unprecedented damage to their systems, the storm hit hard in North Carolina as well, where systems were still recovering — and still waterlogged — from Hurricane Florence’s rampage the previous month.

Just weeks after 54 Ohio linemen spent nearly two weeks in North Carolina after Florence, EnergyUnited Membership Corporation requested help with its power restoration efforts after Michael came through. Ohio cooperatives sent 45 linemen, including three supervisors, along with 18 bucket trucks and three digger derrick trucks, to Madison, North Carolina.

EnergyUnited, with about 125,000 consumer-members in 19 counties, is one of the 20 largest electric cooperatives in the U.S., and more than 38,000 of its members lost power after Michael — part of more than 326,000 North Carolina co-op members without electricity at the peak of the outage.

“Our co-ops were looked to as a saving lifeline that EnergyUnited had to have in the moment, and they were so thankful for our help,” says Dwight Miller, who organized Ohio’s mutual-aid efforts. Miller is director of safety training and loss prevention at Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, the statewide organization that provides services to co-ops in Ohio, and he says the Ohio crews demonstrated a high level of skill and training while working to restore power in the Tar Heel State.

“Once again, our crews set an example of safety for this large co-op,” Miller says. “The folks there were amazed at how efficiently our guys worked, but yet how safety was such a high priority to each crew.”

Joseph Brannan, CEO of North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, passed along both praise and a hearty thanks to the Ohio crews.

“We appreciate your generosity and quick action to send help early as we prepared for and then responded to what we knew would be a historic storm that would have a devastating impact on our state,” Brannan wrote in a letter of thanks. “An army of crews…demonstrated a true commitment to cooperation among cooperatives.” He described the efforts as “heroic” and noted that there had been no reports of serious injuries to any of the crews during the restoration effort.

“We appreciate your willingness to come to our aid, and in the cooperative spirit, North Carolina’s co-ops stand ready to come to yours whenever the call comes our way.”