One of the worse power outages Access Energy Cooperative has ever experienced occurred on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 24, when rain turned to ice and the wind started to blow.
“When the ice hit we lost transmission voltage to six of our substations and the dispatching team from Northeast Power turned everything back over to us. That was about 10:30 in the morning,” Access Energy Operations Manager Don Roach said.
After hour emergency calls ring into Northeast Missouri Electric Cooperative who dispatches the Access Energy crews that are on call. During a major outage, dispatching duties are turned back over to the cooperative.
As the outages continued to spread more crews were called in. Then office personnel started arriving to man the phones. And for the next 100-plus hours, things never let up.
The first order of business was to get the transmission voltage back and our substations back on line, Roach said. Then the crews worked their way out from there, getting the three phase feeder lines operational and repairing individual lines that were down. “As we started restoring power, our AMR (automatic meter reading) system was able to help us check meters to see if they were receiving power,” Roach said.
Monday morning three traveling crews arrived from neighboring cooperatives — Tri-County Electric Cooperative out of Lancaster, Mo., Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative from Bloomfield, and Chariton Valley Electric Cooperative from Albia — all sent crews to assist. Ironically, Access Energy Cooperative had sent a two-man crew to Missouri only weeks before to assist in power restoration following an ice storm.
Crews worked 16-hour shifts, with an eight-hour break in between. Office personnel were also divided into a day and night shift. Fortunately poles and materials that had been ordered for the spring and summer construction season had started to arrive and the items needed for repairs were available. “We didn’t have to scramble around to find materials,” Roach said, which was fortunate as the cooperative sustained over 85 broken poles.
The work was finished up and everyone had power back by 4:00 p.m. Thursday, March 1. “And then the wind came back through,” Roach said. Outages were reported from three substations Thursday evening. Crews were called back, several office workers came in to answer phone calls, and power was restored, again. Everyone had power back by 1:00 a.m. Friday morning.
Early estimates, based on the number of members served by each substation, put the number of outages at 7,500. But once things returned to normal we were able to determine that 5,511 members lost power at some point during the storm, Roach said.
“But the main thing was, we survived the biggest storm I’ve seen in my 30 years and no one got hurt,” he said.