Power companies pleasantly surprised as Hurricane Dennis fizzles before landfall

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

Alabama Power and Pioneer Electric crews expected the worse, so it was a pleasant surprise to most customers in the Greenville area how quickly power was restored after Hurricane Dennis sprinted through the state on Sunday.

Alabama Power spokeswoman Jan Ellis said Tuesday that crews from 29 states and one region in Canada were staged around the state ready to jump into action once Dennis left the area.

"We expected a really major hurricane, so we contacted all these crews," Ellis said. "And we were expecting a Category 4 hurricane even on Sunday. This time we were prepared for what we thought would be the worst."

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Because of advanced preparations and the fact that Dennis fizzled quickly once it reached the Gulf Coast, only a handful of customers within Butler County are without power today.

Ellis said that two Alabama Power customers in Greenville were still without power as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, and 51 customers in Fort Deposit were still in the dark.

"Our estimate is that 99 percent of those who can accept power will have it turned back on by (Tuesday night)," Ellis said.

Alabama Power had 241,214 customers lose power when Dennis passed through the state. By 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, less than 20,000 were without power across the state. A majority of those who were still in the dark were areas where Dennis packed a more powerful punch like Atmore, Flomaton and Brewton.

Pioneer Electric crewmen and contractors had 99 percent of the cooperative's 14,400 customers' power restored by nightfall Monday.

"That's a record for us," Pioneer spokesman Terry Wilhite said. "The very few remaining services were still out because they had damage to the degree it was going to take a few more hours of daylight to correct, which is what crews did Tuesday."

Wilhite said about 60 percent of the cooperative's membership was without power at daybreak on Monday.

"We quickly saw that damage to our electric system was not nearly as severe as it was with Hurricane Ivan," he said.