Wrath of Ivan
the aftermath of Hurricane
Ivan Missouri's electric co-ops respond
lines lay in a twisted mass after Hurrican Ivan smashed the Gulf
Coast. Missouri electric co-ops sent more than 100 lineman to assist
in power restoration.
Imagine a storm so
vast it would cover an area stretching from St. Louis to Chicago with
sustained winds of nearly 130 miles per hour. And just imagine for
a moment watching one of the worst hurricanes to strike the United
States’ Gulf Coast in half a century knowing you were in
the storm’s direct path. That’s what hundreds of thousands
of people experienced in September when Hurricane Ivan struck.
Ivan made landfall a great tradition was set in motion as dozens of
rural electric systems from across the Southeast and Midwest were asked
to provide help. Electric cooperative employees from around the United
States consider themselves members of a large family and that is never
more evident than following devastating ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes.
electric cooperatives send linemen to help, even if that means driving
750 miles from El Dorado Springs, Mo., to Gautier, Miss.
Cuivre River Electric Cooperative lineman Mark Ziegler works with
fellow linemen from the Missouri co-op to replace electric poles
and power lines destroyed by Hurricane Ivan along the Gulf Coast
of Alabama in September.
co-ops sent 101 linemen and 48 trucks to Mississippi and Alabama
to help restore power. Though Missouri co-ops often help systems in
neighboring states, this was the first hurricane Missouri co-op linemen
had ever worked.
the cooperative way,” says
Rob Land, director of risk management and training at the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, which organizes and dispatches
Missouri co-op crews to other states following weather emergencies. “A
few days before the hurricane hit my counterpart in Alabama called
and said, ‘We’re going to need help.’”
lived on the coast for 55 years and I’ve never seen anything
like it,” says Ace Necaise, manager of Singing River Electric
district office in Gautier, Miss. The cooperative serves more than
60,000 members in southeastern Mississippi with most of those crowded
along the densely populated Gulf Coast.
|A Gulf Shores, Ala., family surveys the devestation to one of two
homes they owned along the Gulf Coast.
Necaise watched on
TV Sept. 15 as Hurricane Ivan slowly rumbled north across the Gulf
of Mexico after wreaking havoc in the Caribbean.
The storm, described
by the National Weather Service as “extremely dangerous” and
rated as a Category 4 on a scale of 5, turn slightly to the east in
the hours before it struck land. Early on the morning of Sept. 16 the
eye of Hurricane Ivan passed directly over Mobile Bay in Alabama, an
drive east of Gautier, sparing the Mississippi co-op a direct hit.
dodged a bullet,” says Necaise.
trucks from three different electric co-ops work to repair a
destroyed power line.
Though Singing River
Electric missed a direct hit, more than two-thirds of its members lost
power with coastal towns suffering widespread damage. Ivan’s
most destructive path, though, spread across the Gulf Coast of
Alabama and Florida, continuing inland for hundreds of miles.
single co-op in Alabama was affected,” says Darryl Gates,
director of communications for the Alabama Rural Electric Association
in Montgomery, who says that at the peak more than 325,000 Alabama
electric co-op members were without power.
more than 60 years to build was destroyed in a few hours,” says
Karen Moore, head of public relations for Baldwin County Electric
Membership Cooperative, which serves the Alabama Gulf Coast.
The cooperative, based in Summerdale, lost power to all of
its 56,000 members.
Electric Co-op lineman James Daniel walks out of a rugged area
of coastal Alabama after working to repair downed power lines.
More than 500 electric
co-op linemen responded to Baldwin County. They worked 14-hour days
to replace more than 2,500 downed poles and replace thousands of miles
of power lines. General Manager “Bucky” Jakins said his
system was “in the dirt.”
“As the bucket
trucks rolled into our parking lot in Summerdale, our employees were
outside cheering that help had arrived,” Jakins says.
co-op crews first helped restore power for co-ops in Mississippi
and then moved on to Baldwin, Clarke and Washington counties in Alabama.
Trying to feed, shelter and organize so many linemen was no easy
task. The cooperative put linemen in summer camps, community centers,
church halls, on the floor of offices and in hotels not occupied by
those displaced by the hurricane.
The linemen often
came in from the job site to shelters without electricity and hot water,
but morale remained high. The linemen realized they were helping thousands
of residents without electricity. Many others had lost homes and all
“It was unreal
the people who would come by thanking you,” says Bobby
Dickens, a lineman for Ozark Border Electric Cooperative
in Poplar Bluff. “They
all wanted to know when their lights were going back
on, but they were still grateful to have us there. ‘You came
this far to help us?’ someone
said to me. They just couldn’t believe we’d
come all the way from Missouri.”
resident of Foley, Ala., expressed her gratitude to the hundreds
of electric cooperative linemen who helped restore power in hard-hit
In all, four
powerful hurricanes struck the southeastern United
States in a six-week period with damage to co-ops
in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Co-ops from
20 states responded to those emergencies from as far away
as Michigan and as close as next door. Mississippi’s Singing River Electric
had to call back crews from Florida when it became apparent their co-op was
going to get hit. Missouri co-ops received special praise for sending so many
“The Show Me
State showed me,” says Fred Braswell, president
and chief executive officer of the Alabama Rural Electric Association.
simply could not have recovered without the tremendous
help from our neighbors near and far.”
will always help cooperatives,” says the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperative’s Rob
Land. “Mississippi and Alabama’s
co-ops have told me that if we ever need their
help, they’ll be here.”