The rapid activation of the American Public Power Association’s mutual aid network to Hurricane Sally, which made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., as a Category 2 hurricane, created a smooth path for equipment and crews to be deployed in an effective manner, said Jon Hand, Executive Direct of Electric Cities of Alabama, on Sept. 18.
“We were able at a moment’s notice to activate APPA’s mutual aid network,” he noted in an interview, adding that APPA’s Mutual Aid Working Group is a “great resource for member utilities.”
Hand is a mutual aid coordinator for Region IV of APPA’s Mutual Aid Network. Region IV covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
He said that it was “quite an easy process once we called for the network to be activated” to get equipment and crews right away.
Hand praised APPA President and CEO Joy Ditto’s leadership during the hurricane. In particular, he cited Ditto’s “reaching out to our utilities directly” and offering APPA as a resource to make sure that any resources needed from the federal government were provided.
“That was very reassuring and much appreciated,” Hand said.
And APPA’s mutual aid team, which includes Sam Rozenberg, APPA’s Engineering Services Security Director, and Giacomo Wray, APPA Engineering Services Specialist, “were extremely helpful,” he said.
Crews from Louisiana and Florida were traveling to Alabama during the storm to make sure that they arrived in a timely manner, as did crews from Alabama public power utility Dothan Utilities, Hand noted.
He reported that in the wake of Sally, Alabama public power utility Riviera Utilities initially faced around 46,000 outages, but that number had been brought down to approximately 36,000 outages as of 6:00 a.m. on Sept. 18.
Another Alabama public power utility, Fairhope Utilities, was 100 percent out after Sally hit the Alabama coast. On the evening of Sept. 17, a transmission line for the city was fixed, Hand noted.
At around 9:10 the morning of Sept. 18, the City of Fairhope’s Thomas Hospital was re-energized. “Crews are now working to get first-responders up and running. There is still extensive damage throughout our system, but we are working as safely as possible to get everyone up and running,” the city noted on its Facebook page.
The City of Robertsdale, Ala., also initially was faced with 100 percent power outages, but as of mid-day on Sept. 18, the city had reduced outages to around 2,500.
Riviera Utilities, Fairhope Utilities and Robertsdale are Alabama coastal utilities.
Further inland, other Alabama public power cities have been making good progress in terms of bringing the lights back on to customers. The Cities of Evergreen and Andalusia were expected to complete power restoration efforts on Saturday, Sept. 19.
Meanwhile, power restoration efforts for the City of Tuskegee, Ala., were completed on Sept. 18.
Hand noted that at one point, Alabama had 52,000 systemwide public power outages.
Public power utilities deploy crews to help with restoration efforts
Public power utilities from Florida, Louisiana and Alabama deployed crews to assist with restoration efforts.
Those utilities include:
- Lafayette Utilities System (Louisiana);
- City of Tallahassee Electric Utility (Florida);
- JEA in Jacksonville (Florida);
- The Utilities Commission of New Smyrna Beach (Florida);
- Gainesville Regional Utilities (Florida);
- Orlando Utilities Commission (Florida);
The following Alabama public power utilities also deployed crews for restoration work:
- Dothan Utilities
- Cullman Power Board
- Scottsboro Electric Power Board
- Huntsville Utilities
- Russellville Electric Board
- Albertville Municipal Utilities Board
- Decatur Utilities
- Florence Utilities
- City of Troy Utilities
- MUB Albertville
- Opelika Power Services
- Utilities Board of Tuskegee
Hand noted that other public power utility crews remain on standby.
As with other recent responses to storms and hurricanes, public power utility crews working on restoration efforts for Hurricane Sally have been taking precautions to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19.
Hand noted that “We’re encouraging all employees and mutual aid crew members to practice social distancing. We’re going the extra mile to make sure that the meals are packaged separately.”