Rural Missouri Magazine

Rebuilding after the storms

Frank Stork
by Frank Stork

As devastating tornados swept through Missouri this spring, electric power poles were literally sucked from their vertical holes and slammed horizontally to the ground. Electric service to many rural homes and businesses was interrupted for days.

When a natural disaster knocks out power, we can gain comfort in knowing that an “Emergency Assistance Plan” is in place to bring in outside crews to restore service as quickly as possible.

The plan is triggered by a call to the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives office in Jefferson City. Immediately following, electric cooperatives close to the disaster area are contacted to see if they can provide assistance. Calls continue to go out to systems in an ever-expanding circle.

This plan also expands into neighboring states. In recent years, Missouri crews were sent to Oklahoma when a widespread ice storm destroyed much of that state’s electric power system. In turn, crews from Oklahoma and surrounding states send help to restore service in Missouri when needed.

These volunteer crews go into disaster areas under the worst possible conditions. They are asked to work long hours in darkness and extreme weather conditions. Electric power linemen have even been known to leave a family Christmas dinner when the call for emergency help comes in.

This spring heavy rains created off-road conditions that made it impossible for crews to get to many downed power lines. A couple of days of sunshine were needed to dry open fields before crews could reach some areas. These wet and muddy conditions also exist after ice and snowstorms and often hamper restoration efforts.

For safety reasons, only a certain number of crews can be called in to help our local employees restore service. When working with high-voltage power lines, two-way radio contact must be maintained among all vehicles to ensure the safety of the crew and the general public. A methodical plan must be followed to restore electric power one section at a time. Because the emergency crews use different frequencies, a local crew must accompany them to communicate on two-way radios.

Cooperative employees enjoy telling stories about the extraordinary assistance they get from people who lose power because of storms. They tell of families who offer places to sleep, meals, hot coffee and cookies even if they have to drive miles to get them. When the power is back on, many people go out of their way to thank the employees and those who came from far away to help restore service.

We hope we will not have another natural disaster soon. At the same time, we know we must be prepared to act when the next one interrupts our electric service. We gain comfort in knowing that a proven “Emergency Assistance Plan” will be activated to restore our electric service.

While we are thinking about it, now would be a good time for us to thank the good people at our electric cooperative for the long hours they put in after local storms and widespread natural disasters. I know they would appreciate it.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102

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