Electric co-ops in the U.S. are continuing their efforts to restore power to affected members in Louisiana and Mississippi, the states most affected by Hurricane Ida.
The storm made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Louisiana on 29 August and moved north into Mississippi a day later before weakening into a tropical depression.
The Louisiana electric co-operatives hardest hit by the storm were DEMCO, South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association (SLECA), and Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative (WSTE), all three co-ops are located in the southeast corner of the state.
According to the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives (ALEC), at the peak of the storm all co-ops were between 90-98% down.
“Combined approximately 157,000 meters were down. SLECA, our co-op closest to the coast, was devastated including their office building was destroyed. The roof caved in and the building began to fill with water during the peak of the storm,” says Addie Armato, ALEC’s interim CEO.
“As of this morning [6 September] we are reporting DEMCO has about 70% of their meters restored; SLECA has approximately 18% restored; WSTE is approximately 77% restored. DEMCO and WSTE anticipate full restoration about 4 weeks after the storm. SLECA the hardest hit out of the three will take longer,” she added.
Electric co-ops that were not affected by the storm or those in neighbouring states were quick to come to the rescue.
“Between our co-op mutual-aid and contract crews we have approximately 3000 working at our 3 co-ops. ALEC coordinates the mutual-aid assistance with other statewide organizations and cooperatives all over the United States,” added Ms Armato.
“Our mutual-aid network consists of about 22 states where we can pull additional help to restore power. We can also work through that network to acquire hard to find materials.”
Co-ops in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky joined the effort to restore power and sent crews and lineworkers to help in the process. However, full power restoration could take weeks or longer to complete.
Meanwhile SLECA’s phones were rerouted to the member services department of Central Electric Membership Corp in North Carolina, who handled calls from SLECA’s members.
Likewise, children of Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative employees collected money and supplies for other co-ops in the state that have been affected by the hurricane. They were able to raise $1,200 cash and thousands of toiletry items along with cleaning supplies and some snacks, which were difficult to find in the hurricane’s aftermath.
According to the National Rural Electric Association (NRECA), most co-ops in Mississippi completed restoration work last week. Magnolia Electric Power Association reported an outage number of 2,025 of its 35,200 members, down from 9,300 on 3 September. The co-op’s 395 personnel deployed across its territory replaced more than 120 poles at the weekend.