Illinois cooperatives help restore power after Hurricane Irma

In advance of Hurricane Irma, the Georgia Electric Membership Cooperative reached out to the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) for storm recovery help. The AIEC activated its Emergency Work Plan and ­dispatched 123 linemen from 21 rural electric cooperatives from across the state to help restore electricity in Georgia and North Carolina. The hurricane produced tropical-force winds, torrential downpours and extensive damage to Georgia’s electric infrastructure.

Approximately 5,000 cooperative workers from 25 states converged in the hurricane’s impact zone to assist in ­restoration efforts. Peak ­outage estimates indicate there were more than 760,000 co-op outages in Florida, 535,00 in Georgia and 100,000 in South Carolina.

Before the hurricane made land, crews were sent to Surry-Yadkin EMC, Dobson, N.C.; and Georgia ­cooperatives Carroll EMC, Carrollton; Satilla EMC, Alma; and Snapping Shoals EMC, Covington. The crews in North Carolina were released to join others at Snapping Shoals EMC, and once power was restored at Carroll EMC, those crews joined the others.

Incredible progress was made. As is often the case during restorations of this scale, the last several thousand meters were the most difficult to restore. The co-ops dealt first with rebuilding their main supply lines, to restore power to the most members as quickly as possible, and then worked on the single-phase lines. The linemen worked an average of 17 hours a day, under ­difficult circumstances, to rebuild the system.

“The Georgia cooperatives were overwhelmed with ­gratitude by the response of the Illinois cooperatives, and that from across the nation,” said Jim Miles, AIEC manager of safety and loss control and ­coordinator of the Illinois emergency work plan. “Work, such as this, exhibits the cooperative principle of ­cooperation among cooperatives. We know that if we ever need it, the Georgia ­cooperatives will be happy to reciprocate.”

All of the weary, but satisfied, linemen returned home safely after being released by the Georgia co-ops they were assisting. Through the help of the co-op nation of linemen ­volunteers, all Georgia cooperative members had their electricity restored in less than a week.