Big One: Disaster hits Missouri
As thousands of
electric cooperative employees worked around the clock to restore power
when one of the worst ice storms ever hit our state, some members were
already calling this storm “The Big One.”
ice storms go, no one can remember when Missouri’s electric cooperatives
were hit any harder.
To add insult to
injury, this one came in waves that undid all the hard work that was
done over the course of two long weekend days. Some sections of electric
lines had to be repaired more than once as trees crashed into the lines
at different times or poles snapped in different places along the same
When thousands of
poles are broken and on the ground, a cooperative understands that
no matter how much assistance is brought in from other areas, the restoration
effort will take many days instead of hours.
spend much time during sunny weather preparing for the inevitable encounter
with Mother Nature. But no emergency plan can cover the severe damage
we saw from this ice storm.
Many systems reported
thousands of poles on the ground. Others battled ice that collected
thicker than a soda can on power lines. When strong winds whipped through
the state, the ice load snapped poles like matchsticks.
like rows of dominoes as one after another gave way under the heavy
load of ice. But the worst damage was caused by tall trees located
well back from the right of way that were pulled up by the roots
and toppled, intact, into power lines.
I am always amazed
at the incredible devotion to duty that shines through at your local
electric cooperative during times like these. Across the state, employees
set up camp at the office to provide support to the thousands of linemen
who worked the outage.
I talked to one employee
who hadn’t left
the office from Friday until Tuesday. Linemen routinely worked 16-hour
shifts in the worst conditions. To make matters worse, most of these
employees had to leave families at home who were also suffering with
no power for light and heat.
Linemen from Mississippi
and other southern states showed up to assist the Missourians who helped
them recover from Hurricane Katrina.
In addition, electric
cooperatives out of the storm’s path sent more than
250 linemen along with trucks and other equipment to speed
up the recovery effort. Electric cooperative linemen from Kansas, Illinois
and Arkansas came to Missouri and had a major impact on the restoration
What impressed me
even more were the stories of members who went the extra mile to lend
a hand or expressed to employees in the field how much they appreciated
them working to restore power in difficult conditions.
offered to clear fallen limbs. Highway departments cleared roads
so co-op crews could get to the trouble spots.
Members who could
cook brought hot coffee and meals to shivering linemen. Others just
stopped by to say thanks for the extra effort.
Thanks to all of
you for your patience and understanding in this time of great trial.
That means a lot to the people who are out in the storm on your behalf.
cooperative employees take pride in serving you. They know that many
of you suffered without electricity and will do their best to keep
your power on in the future.
We also have to say
thank you to the governor, state officials, the National Guard, Salvation
Army, Red Cross, state and federal emergency management personnel,
community officials and organizations, public safety professionals
and many others who helped minimize the negative effect the storm had
on our state.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.