KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. –A group of co-op employees has returned home after spending nine days helping two South Carolina electric co-ops recover from an ice storm.
Coastal Electric, headquartered in Walterboro, had nearly all of its 11,600 members out of power as a result of the storm. Edisto Electric Co-op, located 20 miles north of Coastal, also needed help rebuilding its system. After Clay’s crews were released from Coastal on Feb. 19, they traveled to Edisto. Clay Electric’s crews returned to Florida on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Ronald Harper, who served as supervisor for the 25 men who made up Clay’s restoration team, said they put in long hours changing out damaged and broken poles and reconnecting broken conductors. They changed out 48 poles at Coastal and repaired numerous spans of wire.
He said the weather was cool the first few days but it warmed up. It rained two days, which slowed work. According to Harper, some repairs were a challenge because the weight of the ice on pine trees caused them to lean into and block access to easements and rights-of-way, making it more difficult to access some areas.
Harper said Coastal’s service territory is very spread out and rural, and their 15 linemen were overwhelmed by the widespread damage. He said Coastal’s members were appreciative to have their power restored.
“The people were real grateful to see us,” he said.
Several residents who had their power restored by Clay Electric expressed their appreciation on Clay’s Facebook page, and several sent emails expressing thanks.
Harper thanked members of his crew for their hard work through the long days.
“Everybody worked safe and watched out for each other,” he said. “Having a good group of guys made my job easier.”
Clay Electric will be reimbursed by Coastal and Edisto for its expenses associated with the restoration effort. The affected co-ops will likely seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Electric cooperatives willingly come to the assistance of other co-ops that have suffered extensive storm damage. When hurricanes struck Florida in 2004 and 2005, crews from electric co-ops in other states helped Clay with its restoration efforts.
The crews included Ronald Harper, Randy Reddish, Jason Hicks, Glenn Ritch, Mike Kenney, Richard Leino, Chris McDilda, Buddy Webb, Jeff Hall, Clint Sheppard, Stevie Warren, Damian Stewart, Joel Myers, Roy Terrell, Jimmy Andrews, Bruce Sapp, Matt Hickey, Sonny Ware, Kenny Kelly, Mike Horne, Jamie May, Ricky Tuten, Jeff Hollingsworth, Greg Futch, Wade Screen and Mike Chappell.
Top photo: Serviceman Jimmy Andrews reconnects a home.
Bottom photo: Linemen Clint Sheppard and Jeff Hall repair overhead lines.