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Co-ops team up after windstorm disaster

A WINDSTORM OF HISTORIC PROPORTIONS was met by one of the largest mutual aid responses in Kentucky electric cooperative history. 

The intense March 3 storm broke all-time records in Kentucky for low barometric pressure, leading to a relentless onslaught of damaging winds, some at hurricane strength—more than 75 miles per hour. 

“Kentucky experienced winds in excess of 60 miles an hour for six to seven hours,”says Evan Webb, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Louisville. “And for the whole event, we saw winds over 40 miles an hour for 10 to 12 hours.” 

Mutual aid lineworkers from Laclede Electric Cooperative, Missouri, assist Warren RECC with repairs. Photo: Jim McCarty

By the time it was over, the windstorm had snapped at least 1,000 utility poles and felled thousands more trees and power lines, knocking out power to more than 300,000 co-op consumer-members, affecting all of the commonwealth’s 24 local distribution co-ops. Soft ground from heavy rains slowed the progress of heavy equipment to access damaged infrastructure. 

With neighboring co-ops in Tennessee and Ohio also affected, Kentucky’s co-ops cast a wider net for outside help. In all, 71 co-ops from 12 different states—from Florida to Missouri—provided mutual aid for power restoration. 

Farmers RECC, Great Southwestern Construction and Glasgow Water Company work to pull in new wire after old wire was damaged by downed trees. Photo: Todd Stephens

“Working alongside local co-op crews and contractors, the additional 504 mutual aid lineworkers helped shorten the duration of power outages,” says Randy Meredith, director of safety and training at Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “The widespread nature of this disaster created many individual and time-consuming outages.” 

As co-ops worked around the clock to restore power, their local communities stepped up to help, providing meals, support and words of encouragement. 

Wind blew the roof off a barn on Tatum Lane in Marion County. Photo: Josh Hale/Inter-County Energy Cooperative

“Co-ops know any power outage is problematic for their members, and co-op crews take this personally,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We know this disaster took a toll on families, from spoiled foods to child and elder care issues. We appreciate the dedication of everyone who helped restore power and the patience of everyone who was affected. 

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