By September 1, 2016, Colquitt EMC had assembled a team to tackle the potentially high volume of storm outages that typically accompany a hurricane. The co-op had sixteen of their own crews, eight Field Service Representatives (FSR’s) from Mitchell EMC in Camilla, Georgia, and a construction crew from Coweta-Fayette EMC out of Palmetto, Georgia. Their workforce plus the additional help from surrounding utilities gave the utility around ninety linemen out in the field. Colquitt started to receive the first wave of outage calls from their consumers around 9:30-10:00 that evening. Colquitt’s GIS Manager Scott Howard recalls, “The calls were coming in just a few at a time. Not much at all. The dispatchers were able to handle them by themselves, at that point.
“The storm hit around midnight Thursday, Friday morning,” Howard goes on to say. “We had some guys working out in the field till about 2:30 a.m. Then the conditions got too bad for them, and we had to call them in. We regrouped with everyone at 6:30 Friday morning. Most of the storm had passed through by daylight, and the winds had died down enough where they could get out and start doing some work. By that time, we had the crews organized so that could send them to certain areas, certain feeders, and they could start working.”
Even though the co-op anticipated the storm and took every possible step to prepare for it, the damage was worse than expected. “It was worse than what we thought it would’ve been because the eye went through the middle of our system,” Howard says. “Part of our system got hammered big time!”
Colquitt’s system had taken a huge hit, and as the storm settled down, Colquitt’s crews knew they had their work cut out for them. Out of the 65,000 meters on the utility’s lines, 38,000 were out of service. According to Howard, “We did have several transformers that burned up, but that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was the wind with the trees knocking the power lines down. We had to cut the trees off the line and pick the power lines back up, straighten them up, and replace the broken poles.”
Storm damage like this is common with hurricanes. For Colquitt EMC, one of their biggest hurdles in restoring power was clearing trees off of downed lines.