STORM DAMAGE: Electric co-ops spend weekend restoring power to hundreds
Strong storms that swept through the area last Friday night downed trees and caused power outages. The biggest problem was dozens of trees that fell onto power lines, knocking out power to hundreds of households and blocking roadways, said Ozark County emergency management director Curtis Ledbetter. No storm-related injuries were reported, but some isolated structural damage occurred, he said, adding that many times residents only call to report blocked roads and fallen utility lines so the sheriff’s office isn’t always aware of personal property damage.
The two electric cooperatives that serve Ozark County, Howell-Oregon Electric on the east side, and White River Valley Electric in the central area and west side, had hundreds of outages, mostly due to fallen lines and broken poles.
HOE spokesman Dakota Bates told the Times Monday that the most damage to their lines occurred around Tecumseh and the area west of Bakersfield.
“Our crews were dispatched out immediately and went to work to safely restore power as soon as we could,” Bates said, adding that approximate 500 HOE members were without power here. Most of the damage was due to “trees from outside the right-of-way area falling onto lines in the very high winds.”
Power was restored to all Ozark County HOE members by 9 a.m. Saturday, he said.
The White River Valley co-op had more than 8,000 total outages in all five of its service-area counties. But not all of the outages occurred at the same time, WRVEC spokesperson Cassie Cunningham said Monday. “Just as some outages would be cleared, a whole slew of others would come in,” she said.
Accessibility was also a problem for some of the White River crews. “In a lot of areas, the water is high. Some places were flooded, and then they were flash-flooded. So a crew might need 30 minutes to get to a place under normal circumstances, but with the high water, it might take them two hours to go the long way around,” she said.
Saturday morning, the co-op posted this update on its Facebook page: “Our crews have been working through the night to restore your service. Unfortunately, many broken poles have needed to be replaced. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have just over 700 [outages] left around Ozark and Douglas counties.”
Later, on Saturday evening, the co-op posted an apology for a delay in restoring some service: “After clearing over 8,000 outages, the linemen had to be sent home. Working over 24 hrs in extreme heat poses serious safety precautions. There are 254 remaining out of power in the Wasola/Theodosia areas. Our apologies for your inconvenience. We will be back at it first thing in the morning!”
The final WRVEC update said, “Our Operations Dept. is calling this storm one of the worst because of the widespread damage left behind. There have been hundreds of trees, poles and lines down. This damage is also in sparsely populated areas, so it takes even longer to restore even one single member. Hang tight. Help is on the way for those still without service.”
The last WRVEC outages, in the Wasola area, were cleared Sunday mid-afternoon, Cunningham said.