OEC Assists with Hurricane Irma Restoration
Relief convoy headed south
Oconto Falls, Wis. (September 12, 2017)— September 11, Oconto Electric Cooperative (OEC) linemen Ron Friedman and Ben Wilcox along with line superintendent Jack Pardy headed to Clay Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Keystone Heights, Florida, northeast of Gainesville to assist in restoration efforts due to Hurricane Irma. As of Tuesday morning, Clay Electric estimated that 90 percent of its system was without power.
OEC met up with volunteer line crews from 18 Wisconsin electric cooperatives–more than 50 employees–to join in Florida’s massive recovery effort, helping rebuild shattered electric systems in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation. Vehicles were dispatched, including bucket trucks, pole-hauling trailers, and digging equipment. OEC took a bucket truck, skid steer and pickup truck.
The Florida Electric Cooperatives Association, a statewide trade group, put out a call for help last Thursday, anticipating Irma’s Sunday morning landfall and the huge storm’s potential to simultaneously batter the entire state.
Line superintendents from Wisconsin cooperatives got word of the request at a previously scheduled meeting in Stevens Point and immediately began planning their response, assessing availability of workers and equipment.
Those preparations were completed during a busy weekend. Early Monday morning, co-op vehicles began departing from local headquarters across the state from assembly points at Eau Claire, Oakdale, Portage, and Janesville. At least three multi-co-op convoys planned to reach Ste. Genevieve, Missouri by Monday night, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi by Tuesday night, arriving in Florida by late Wednesday afternoon.
Participating co-ops traveling southward include Adams-Columbia, Barron, Bayfield, Central Wisconsin, and Clark Electric Cooperatives, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Dunn and Eau Claire Energy Cooperatives, Oakdale and Oconto Electric Cooperatives, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Price and Richland Electric Cooperatives, Riverland, Rock, and Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperatives, and Taylor and Vernon Electric Cooperatives.
The relief mission is similar to assistance rendered by Wisconsin co-ops 12 years ago following Hurricane Katrina. Personnel from 14 Wisconsin electric cooperatives were dispatched over a four-week period to Louisiana on a rotating basis, helping to rebuild a local co-op distribution system that had been almost totally destroyed.
It’s also similar—on a larger scale—to the ROPE (restoration of power in an emergency) program in which Wisconsin co-ops help each other shorten recovery times when severe weather damages local electric systems.
On three previous occasions since this past spring, ten Wisconsin co-ops have loaned out line crews in ROPE deployments to help others speed up rebuilding of storm-damaged systems. OEC was one of those co-ops that called for help after the big windstorm on June 11.
OEC is a member-owned, not-for-profit, generation & distribution cooperative headquartered in Oconto Falls, Wisconsin. In 1937, the cooperative was formed to serve electricity in rural northeast Wisconsin. Currently OEC serves more than 9,600 members throughout Oconto, Marinette, and small portions of Shawano County.
Any questions please contact Katie Jagiello at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (920) 846-2816.