• 82°

Black Warrior Electric sends crews to help Florida

Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation is among 19 Alabama rural electric cooperatives sending crews to Florida this week to help fellow electric cooperatives in that state restore power in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

In all, a total of 210 linemen from Alabama cooperatives were dispatched to assist in Florida, where the hurricane left more than 75 percent of the state without electricity.

Linemen with Black Warrior Electric Cooperative work Wednesday in an effort to help restore power to those affected by Hurricane Irma. These linemen are working in a territory where power is provided by the Central Florida Electric Cooperative, based in Chiefland, Florida.

Confronting the aftermath of high winds and heavy rain, mutual aid linemen from more than 25 states are working at co-ops in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, according to the Alabama Rural Electric Association. In some spots, full restoration could take weeks, officials warned.

“Alabama’s cooperatives are always willing to help our fellow cooperatives when there is a need,” said Fred Braswell, president and CEO of the AREA, which represents Alabama’s 22 electric cooperatives.

Black Warrior EMC General Manager Daryl Jones said crews from Black Warrior left Tuesday headed for Florida.

“As usual, we had every field employee volunteer to assist our fellow cooperatives,” Jones said. “Additional BWEMC crews will be swapped out later if needed. This allows us to maintain reliability for our own members while helping others in need.”

The mutual aid among cooperatives is a nationwide network that provides assistance when disaster strikes.

Terry Barr, president of the Black Warrior Electric Board of Trustees, said cooperation among electric utilities in responding to widespread power outages is critical and benefits members of Black Warrior.

“Our crews are always prepared for when bad weather hits, but hurricanes and tropical storms are a special challenge,” Barr said. “Getting the lights back on quickly often requires additional manpower beyond what the local cooperative can provide on its own. So we are happy to assist other cooperatives when they need help, knowing they will be ready to help us when we need it.”

(This article originally published in the Saturday, Sept. 16, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)