Ohio co-ops successfully aid Florence recovery

Crews from Ohio cooperatives helped restore power to members of South River EMC and Lumbee River EMC in southern North Carolina this week. (Photo courtesy of Pioneer Electric Cooperative)

Fifty-four linemen from 12 Ohio electric cooperatives spent much of the past week successfully assisting with power restoration to members of South River EMC and Lumbee River EMC in North Carolina, two cooperatives severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.

The crews departed Ohio last Friday and Saturday with 14 bucket trucks and 12 digger derricks. When they arrived, South River had 30,000 of its 46,000 members without power, while Lumbee River had 35,000 of its 60,000 members in the dark.

While the restoration process at South River was relatively brisk and straightforward, crews assisting Lumbee River faced considerable adversity as flooding in the area worsened.

“The two themes were getting stuck and not being able to return on roads that you used just a couple hours ago,” said Trevor Lavy, safety and loss control instructor at OEC. “It wasn’t uncommon to take two to three times longer to return to the co-op than it took to originally get to the job site.”

Additionally, Lumbee River’s OMS, AMI, and SCADA systems were also initially offline, which created difficulty obtaining precise numbers and locations of outages.

By Tuesday, South River’s outage number was reduced to 3,766, while Lumbee River’s was at 10,964. In addition to the difficulties created by flooded roads, fuel scarcity created a significant hurdle, with many stations running out of diesel and some only able to accept cash due to widespread internet outages.

Ohio crews assisting South River were released Wednesday morning, with only 160 members awaiting restoration. Meanwhile, work continued at Lumbee River, with temperatures in the mid-90s paired with high humidity.

Throughout the restoration effort, Ohio linemen were commended for their adherence to high safety standards.

“You should be proud of your guys for influencing others in ways that could save a life down the road,” said Dwight Miller, OEC’s director of safety training and loss control, to Ohio co-op management. “Thank you for keeping safety at the forefront of your cooperative.”

By late Thursday, Lumbee River’s outages were down to a manageable level, and Ohio’s crews were notified that evening they would be released in the morning. By 7:30 a.m. on Friday, all Ohio linemen assisting Lumbee River had departed for home.

Ohio cooperatives’ mutual aid efforts were featured on two reports on WSYX ABC 6 in Columbus, on WTOV 9 in Steubenville, and in several local print outlets throughout the state.

Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives thanks all involved for their hard work and diligence this past week assisting our partners in North Carolina.