As of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Excelsior EMC reported that line crews had reduced the Hurricane Irma outages in the electric cooperative’s eight-county service area to those affecting 220 member customers.
This included 91 Excelsior EMC customer accounts still without power in Bulloch County.
Damage to the Metter-based Electric Membership Corporation’s grid from trees and limbs falling onto power lines had been “widespread and severe,” a spokesman said in the emailed statement. At the peak of the damage Monday, 18,110 of Excelsior EMC’s customer accounts were reportedly without power, or 81 percent of its 22,581 accounts.
“With Hurricane Matthew still fresh on everyone’s mind, it’s almost unbelievable Irma hit us again with similar damage in less than a year,” said Greg Proctor, CEO of Excelsior EMC said in the news release. “But just as with Matthew, our members have shown incredible patience and understanding. We appreciate that along with all the acts of kindness you’ve displayed.”
The 220 accounts remaining out of service are less than 1 percent of Excelsior’s total. But progress often slows later in an effort to restore power after a mass outage, as multiple power companies have noted this week. Earlier in the effort that began Monday, one repair may have restored hundreds of accounts, but at this point a single repair may restore only a few, Proctor said.
Also reportedly still out Wednesday evening were 47 Excelsior accounts in Candler County, 66 in Emanuel County, 15 in Evans County and one in Tattnall County.
“We’ve made good progress and expect that to continue,” Proctor said in Wednesday evening’s update. “The weather is cooperating and crews are hitting their stride. We’ve brought the number of outages down from 18,110 to 220 in just 48 hours. The preparations we made prior to the storm helped us to respond rapidly.”
The workforce restoring Excelsior’s grid numbered 186 individuals. The co-op has only about 30 personnel in its regular crews, maintaining 3,271 miles of power lines in Bryan, Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Jenkins and Tattnall counties.
But representatives of electric cooperatives in other states and some contractors came to help.
From Oklahoma came employees of the CK Energy Electric Cooperative, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Cimarron Electric Cooperative and Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives.
From Kentucky came the Nolin Electric Cooperative, from Virginia the Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, and from Arkansas the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative. Contractors assisting include Kendall Right-of-Way and BTS Right-of-Way, Excelsior EMC reported.