Pioneer, Alabama Power respond to storm outages

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Heavy thunderstorms swept through the area Sunday afternoon leaving a large number of Pioneer Electric Cooperative members and Alabama Power customers without electricity.

According to Terry Wilhite, spokesman for Pioneer, about 1,500 members had power outages Sunday.

&uot;Most of the outages followed a path south of Highway 10, from McWilliams to the west, east beyond Greenville and southward to Pigeon Creek,&uot; he said. &uot;Winds were clocked as high as 45 mph. These were straight-line winds, which can be as devastating as a tornado. These type winds certainly are the worst for an electric system.&uot;

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Wilhite said all of the Greenville-based linemen and servicemen were activated. Pioneer also activated the Greenville Storm Response Center.

&uot;In fact, we had a team of employees answering the phones, including Malloy Chandler, our general manager,&uot; he said. &uot;But we know that with hundreds of reports coming in at one time, the phone system was jammed for a period of time. We appreciate everybody’s understanding that it is simply impossible to have a phone system capable of taking hundreds of calls at a single moment, but with our outage tracking system, we are always able to get a handle on the outage area quickly.&uot;

Wilhite said the work was done mostly darkness with power off at the downtown offices.

&uot;Our power was off here at the office, too,&uot; he said. &uot;Our storm response center in town was powered by a back up generator for several hours.&uot;

He said the majority of the damage to the system came from tree limbs being tossed onto power lines, but due to ground saturation, more and more trees are falling on lines as well.

&uot;Our power lines travel some of the most wooded and wet areas of the state (rural Butler, Dallas, Lowndes and Wilcox),&uot; he said. &uot;Inspecting dozens of miles of line to find a limb that’s blown onto a line takes time. In fact, it’s so wet right now, some areas have been hard to reach with trucks and equipment and have to be walked.&uot;

He compared the job of checking the lines to making a strand of Christmas lights work again.

&uot;You’re always looking for that one fault on the line that will make the whole line work,&uot; he said. &uot;With hundreds of miles of power line effected by a storm, that is a big job.&uot;

He said Pioneer appreciated everyone’s patience on Sunday and also to those that helped spot downed lines.

&uot;We also thank those who alerted us to fallen trees on power lines,&uot; he said. &uot;We always remind folks to never try to remove debris from power lines or roadways yourself. A power line can be energized even when it’s on the ground.&uot;

Alabama Power also suffered outages Sunday, according to Judy Gettys, the local business office manager.

&uot;We had about 2,000 homes with power outages on Sunday due to the storm,&uot; she said.

&uot;I don’t know what the weather service would have called it, but the weather was extremely nasty.&uot;

She said many of the area’s Alabama Power customers were without power for about one-and-one-half hours.

&uot;The bulk of our folks came back up when we got them ready,&uot; she said. &uot;After that we had scattered outages until morning.&uot;

Gettys applauded the Alabama Power crews for their quick response time to the severe weather.

&uot;Our crews were right on the spot and tended to business as quickly as they could,&uot; he said.

According to the National Weather Service, no warnings were issued for Butler County during the high winds and torrential rains on Sunday.