MONROE, Ga. – Experiencing the most broken poles ever from a single storm, Walton EMC is making progress in restoring power to the remaining customer-owners still in the dark from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
So far, the co-op has discovered 110 broken poles scattered across its territory, with the majority being in Gwinnett County. “In my 30-plus years, it’s the most I can remember,” said Ron Marshall, vice president of engineering and operations.
Replacing a broken pole is the most time- and resource-consuming repair. Just one pole replacement can require several hours and tie up at least two utility trucks.
Power outages began about 1 p.m. Monday and affected every corner of the cooperative’s 10-county service area. At the height of outages, 50,000 customer-owners were without power. Walton EMC currently has more than 99 percent of accounts online after only 78 hours, with 687 outages left to restore.
Trees or limbs being blown into power lines by high winds caused all outages.
The number of accounts out of power decreases at a slower rate later in the restoration event. That’s because the backbone of the grid must be repaired first. After that, attention is turned to lines that branch off the backbone. At the beginning of the process, one repair may restore service to thousands. Now, a repair requiring the same amount of time may restore power to only a small number of accounts.
“Although our country has two major outage events at almost the same time – Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma – Walton EMC has no materials issues,” said Marshall. “We have plenty of poles, transformers and other materials from our storm stock. We’re also doing what it takes to get additional materials, including going to pick up materials when vendors can’t deliver.”
Visiting crews have assisted Walton EMC from as far away as Virginia and as close by as Monroe. Other crews have come from Kentucky and North Carolina.
Utilities and contractors assisting are Four County EMC, DSI Contractors and Pike Electrical Contractors (NC); Licking Valley Electric Cooperative (KY); Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (VA); Pike Electrical Contractors, Georgia Right-of-Way and Monroe Utilities (GA). Additional Pike Electrical Contractors (GA) crews arrived today.
“We greatly appreciate our customer-owners’ patience and understanding,” said CEO Ronnie Lee. “We know being without power is inconvenient and aggravating. The thousands of kind comments we’ve received by email, social media, phone calls and face-to-face keep us going.”
“It’s been a total effort by everyone at Walton EMC,” said Marshall. “Employees and those assisting us have done an impressive job. But, we aren’t satisfied until every customer-owner is back on.”
Walton EMC is a customer-owned electric utility that serves 127,000 accounts in 10 counties between Atlanta and Athens.