Hurricane Sandy is a monster storm hitting the East Coast. In response, more than 50 linemen from eleven Illinois electric cooperatives have volunteered to help a sister cooperative, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative headquartered in Plymouth. Four of these linemen are from Adams Electric Cooperative in Camp Point.
Rick Polley, who coordinates the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ Emergency Work Plan in Springfield, said officials from New Hampshire Electric Cooperative called Friday to arrange for help ahead of the storm. Because all of the available help from neighboring states had already been committed, the co-op was asking for help from states west of Ohio.
Polley said, “They had to reach out to us because the storm is predicted to hit as far out as eastern Ohio. This is the first time we’ve sent crews this far east. On many occasions we’ve sent crews south to help out with hurricane damage.”
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has a mutual aid agreement that almost all U.S. electric co-ops have signed. But Polley says most of the disaster coordination is handled through individual statewide organizations.
“We anticipate the crews will spend at least three to five days working in New Hampshire, plus there will be two days of travel time each way,” says Polley. “A lot of the utilities and electric cooperatives got criticized for how they handled Hurricane Irene last year, so I think because of the size of this storm and that criticism they are trying to double their efforts to prepare for this storm. Hopefully it is not as bad as some have predicted.”
Polley says it is always a dilemma deciding how much help to call in before a storm actually hits. “You don’t really know how much help you need, or how much damage you’ll need to repair. It can take more than a day to just assess the damage. So you’re just making an educated guess.”
Storm damage from a hurricane or ice storm is often described as looking like a war zone, but every lineman knows it could happen in their home territory. Polley says, “They all know it could happen to them and it is better to be on the volunteer side and sending help than the receiving end and asking for help. We could have ice storms this winter and be asking for a return favor.”
The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is the only electric co-op in New Hampshire and serves more than 80,000 members in 115 towns and cities. The co-op has over 5,500 miles of energized line that traverse nine of the 10 counties.
The Illinois co-ops sending help include: Adams Electric Cooperative, Corn Belt Energy, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association, EnerStar Electric Cooperative, Jo-Carroll Energy, Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative, Shelby Electric Cooperative, SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, and Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative.