Tornadoes Hit Cooperative Territory
Co-ops work together to restore power following string of tornadic activity
EnergyLines July 2019
The National Weather Service confirmed that on June 15 nine tornadoes touched down across central and southern Indiana.
The path of destruction was wide as the twisters ripped through several co-op territories, leaving areas of total destruction in their wake.
Preliminary reports stated that the Owen County tornado was an EF1, while the Greene and Monroe County tornados were category EF2 storms.
In the town of Ellettsville, a tornado had winds up to 130 mph. The storm’s path crossed with South Central Indiana’s REMC’s 1 MW solar array. An estimated 25 solar panels were destroyed or damaged.
“If you look where the tornado came through, a nearby barn was completely destroyed. We were lucky to have our infrastructure predominantly in tact,” said Hoosier Energy Renewable Energy Project Developer Josh Cisney.
After the storms passed and it was safe to inspect damage, SCI REMC crews were dispatched. Reports of damage continued to come in through the day and night. Tornadoes uprooted electric poles and toppled trees onto power lines. After the tornadoes passed, the rains persisted. On Sunday evening, as a SCI REMC crew worked to restore power, they found themselves surrounded by flood waters – unable to leave the area.
Utilities District of Western Indiana (UDWI) also faced similar restoration efforts in its territory. The path of the tornadoes left power lines twisted on the ground. The tops of poles were snapped off and laying in broken piles of timber far from their original location.
The cooperative world is one of teamwork. Crews from Clark County REMC, Hendricks Power Cooperative, Henry County REMC and JCREMC arrived to help SCI REMC restore power.
“It is an honor to be on a team with people who consistently go above and beyond to restore life-critical services when our members are in need,” said James Tanneberger, President & CEO at SCI REMC.
To get power back on as quickly and safely as possible the Martinsville-based co-op leaned heavily on their system operations and engineers to switch circuits around whenever possible to energize sections of the grid. The restoration efforts don’t stop there.
“We depended on our warehouse employees and vendors to make sure we had the materials we need and they all came through for us. We also relied on our marketing and communications team to keep our members, first responders and the public apprised of the situation and expected restoration timelines,” said SCI REMC Vice President of Distribution Services Tim LeMere.
He continued, “In my 20 years of experience in the electric utility industry, I have never seen such a unified response. I couldn’t be prouder.”