MISSOURI (KFVS) - All of the Missouri electric cooperative linemen sent to areas of Florida and Georgia where they helped restore power in the wake of Hurricane Irma have returned home.
Missouri sent 133 linemen from 22 systems to assist SECO Energy in Sumterville, Florida, and Flint Energies based in Reynolds, Georgia.
Most of the Missouri lineworkers traveled to Florida, where damage to the central Florida electric cooperative was described as "unprecedented."
Power outages began Sunday evening, Sept. 10, as Irma's tropical-storm-force winds entered Central Florida. Members continued to lose power throughout Sunday night and Monday morning when winds increased to hurricane-force speeds. When winds subsided, more than half of SECO's system was down and more than half of the cooperative's nearly 200,000 members were without power.
Restoration began on Monday, Sept. 11, at noon. More than 1,200 lineworkers and tree trimmers were deployed in full force throughout the system over the next six days to restore power. At the end of the day on Sunday, Sept. 17, SECO's system was more than 99.9 percent restored. A few members could not receive power due to high water.
Another 24 Missouri linemen went to central Georgia, where Flint Energies needed help to restore power to 35,000 of its members.
Flint Energies suffered extensive damage to its system in large part because of the 100-foot-tall pine trees common to the area. Countless outages had to be located, paths through the debris had to be cleared and a number of broken poles replaced in order to restore power. The work was completed by Friday, Sept. 8.
The men worked as much as 16 hours per day repairing broken poles and wire damaged by powerful wind and falling trees. In Florida they carried tools through chest-deep water, keeping a wary eye out for alligators. The Georgia crews braved venomous snakes and the ever-present fire ants.
The Missouri linemen were part of the largest mobilization of mutual assistance in the history of the rural electric program. More than 1.2 million electric cooperative members were without power following the hurricane.
"We enjoy coming down here and doing the work," said Jeff Dimond, a lineman for Barton County Electric Cooperative, Lamar. "We like to help other co-ops out. It's nice to do that. If we ever end up in trouble it's real nice to have someone come and help you out. I've never had to live without power as long as some of these folks have. It's a heck of an inconvenience. That's what we are here for, just trying to help their cause out a little bit."
Those electric co-ops who sent crews included:
- Black River Electric Cooperative, Fredericktown
- Boone Electric Cooperative, Columbia
- Central Electric Power Cooperative, Jefferson City
- Citizens Electric Cooperative, Perryville
- Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, Tipton
- Consolidated Electric Cooperative, Mexico
- Crawford Electric Cooperative, Bourbon
- Cuivre River Electric Cooperative, Troy
- Gascosage Electric Cooperative, Dixon
- Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative, West Plains
- Intercounty Electric Cooperative, Licking
- Osage Valley Electric Cooperative, Butler
- Ozark Border Electric Cooperative, Poplar Bluff
- Sac-Osage Electric Cooperative, El Dorado Springs
- SEMO Electric Cooperative, Sikeston
- Southwest Electric Cooperative, Bolivar
- Webster Electric Cooperative, Marshfield
- Barton County Electric Cooperative, Lamar
- Laclede Electric Cooperative, Lebanon
- Macon Electric Cooperative, Macon
- Ralls County Electric Cooperative, New London
- Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Lancaster