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PEC Crews Aid in Hurricane Irma Restoration Efforts

Crews from Price Electric joined volunteer line crews from 17 other Wisconsin electric cooperatives to assist in rebuilding shattered electric systems and restore power in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

The Florida Electric Cooperatives Association, a statewide trade group, put out a call for help on Thursday, September 7, anticipating Irma’s Sunday morning landfall and the huge storm’s potential to simultaneously batter the entire state.    

Operations personnel from Wisconsin cooperatives got word of the request at a previously scheduled meeting in Stevens Point and immediately began planning their response, assessing availability of workers and equipment.

Those preparations were completed during a busy weekend. Early Monday morning, co-op vehicles began departing from local headquarters across the state for assembly points at Eau Claire, Oakdale, Portage, and Janesville. At least three multi-co-op convoys planned to reach Ste. Genevieve, Missouri by Monday night, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi by Tuesday night, arriving in Florida by late Wednesday afternoon.

 

PEC Apprentice Lineman Chris Burnis and
PEC Journeyman Lineman/Crew Foreman David Pisca 
traveled to Florida to assist with system restoration following Hurricane Irma

Crews from Barron, Bayfield, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pierce Pepin, Price, and Taylor electric cooperatives at the assembly point in Eau Claire Wisconsin crews on the road to Florida

All the Wisconsin volunteers were assigned to assist rebuilding at Clay Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Keystone Heights, Florida, northeast of Gainesville.  As of Monday morning, Clay Electric had approximately 130,000 members—representing about 75 percent of its system—without power. Throughout the state of Florida, the number of co-op members without power peaked at nearly 1.5 million. By the end of the day on Friday, September 15, crews from 25 states had restored power to all but 100,000 co-op members statewide.

More than 50 Wisconsin co-op employees traveled southward Monday, September 11.  Participating co-ops included Adams-Columbia, Barron, Bayfield, Central Wisconsin, and Clark Electric Cooperatives, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Dunn and Eau Claire Energy Cooperatives, Oakdale and Oconto Electric Cooperatives, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Price and Richland Electric Cooperatives, Riverland, Rock, and Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperatives, and Taylor and Vernon Electric Cooperatives.

 

 

The Crews Gather Prior to Departure Wisconsin Linemen Headed to Florida to Assist in Restoration Efforts

 

Anticipating a lengthy rebuilding project, a second round of 24 co-op volunteers had been recruited for later rotation into the damaged area. However, following nearly two weeks of work, sufficient system repairs had been made that no additional crews were needed.

More than 40 vehicles were dispatched, including bucket trucks, pole-hauling trailers, and digging equipment.

The relief mission is similar to assistance rendered by Wisconsin co-ops 12 years ago following Hurricane Katrina. Personnel from 14 Wisconsin electric cooperatives were dispatched over a four-week period to Louisiana on a rotating basis, helping to rebuild a local co-op distribution system that had been almost totally destroyed.

It’s also similar—on a larger scale—to the ROPE (restoration of power in an emergency) program in which Wisconsin co-ops help each other shorten recovery times when severe weather damages local electric systems. On three previous occasions since this past spring, ten Wisconsin co-ops have loaned out line crews in ROPE deployments to help others speed up rebuilding of storm-damaged systems. 

 

 

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