Power may be back on today thanks to out-of-town, local electric crews

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – Electric power company officials are calling Hurricane Ivan one of the worst power outages in Alabama’s history, but nationwide mutual aid agreements are helping bring lights back on across the Black Belt as early as today.

“Alabama has never seen anything like [Hurricane Ivan’s outages] and the speed [of restoration] is a testament to the people out there working,” said Steve Hood, a spokesman with Alabama Power Co..

Throughout the state, a number of those people – line and construction crews – have left the safety of their homes away from Alabama to lend aid through the compacts.

In the Demopolis area, a 22-person crew from San Antonio, Texas has been joined by a 25-person crew from the Texas-New Mexico Utility and a crew from Missouri’s Empire Electric.

“When a major storm – whether it’s a hurricane, an ice storm or something else- our storm center is activated and calls are made to those other utilities,” Hood said.

At the height of the Ivan-related outage, Hood estimated about 1.2 million Alabamians

lost electricity – about 850,000 of them Alabama Power customers.

“At one time in the [Alabama Power] Western Division, we lost over 50 percent of our customers. Statewide Alabama Power lost about 67 percent,” Hood said. “That’s the monumental task that we had in front of us.”

“Ivan was about twice as bad as any previous outage we’ve had due to a storm,” he said.

By late Monday, only 177 Demopolis customers were without power, 177 in Eutaw and 282 in Greensboro. Beyond that, outage numbers escalated. York had 353 customers without service, Linden 468, Uniontown and Livingston both with 468 customers still without service from Alabama Power.

“Crews are out working and we are hoping, in that area, to have power on by tomorrow,” Hood said. “Those that can have power we hope to have on.”

Those same crews will find thankful power customers as the lights come back on.

“It can be an Alabama Power truck or a Texas-New Mexico truck. It doesn’t matter. Customers may get frustrated, but when the power truck shows up, they’re very appreciative,” said Hood, noting that out-of-state crews frequently report back how friendly Alabamians were to them.

“They are always very impressed when they leave Alabama and go back to their home state,” he said.

An celebrations over the restoration of power shouldn’t come at safety’s expense, Hood said.

“Be careful of downed power lines and if electrical service is damaged on the home, the residents should have an electrician make repairs before calling us,” he said.

Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell said those out-of-towners are making an impact.

In addition to local power contractors, he said Miller Pipeline has had a crew assisting the city with debris clearance.

Locally, he said, Charles Jones Jr., Ed Key, Dave Wingert, the water department, the Demopolis High School band, the fire department and the beautification committee has been assisting in debris clearance.