After the Freeze
Ice gone, but power outages remain
by Sarah Fay Campbell
By late Thursday, ice had melted and only the tiniest bits of snow and sleet remained in shaded areas around Coweta.
But power outages remained.
Thousands of Cowetans were still without power Thursday, and Coweta-Fayette EMC said it could be as late as Saturday before power is restored to all its affected customers.
“Hopefully we will be able to pick up the largest amount [Thursday] and [Friday],” said Mary Ann Bell, vice president of public relations and communications.
Concerns about power were on the minds of Coweta County School System officials as they were still trying to determine late Thursday whether or not school would be in session Friday. Roads were clear, but some schools were still without power. Go to Times-Herald.com for updates on school closings.
With sunshine, warmer temperatures and dry roads, most stores were open on Bullsboro Drive Thursday, including almost all of Ashley Park retail center, even though it was announced Wednesday the shopping center would be closed. Grocery store parking lots were packed.
At 3 p.m. Thursday, Georgia Power had about 2,600 customers in Coweta County without power, according to Amy Fink with Georgia Power Media Relations. Fink said she could not provide an estimate as to when all power would be restored, but “crews are in the area and working.”
By 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Georgia Power had restored power to 329,000 customers around the state, with 219,000 customers still without electricity.
Coweta-Fayette EMC had about 10,000 outages in its nine-county service area, as of 2 p.m., said Bell.
At 11 p.m. Wednesday, they had been down to 6,000 outages for the whole service territory. “But then, at 11, a main line went out toward Tyrone, and instantly we’re back up to 20,000,” Bell said.
A 4 p.m Thursday, Bell said there were “so many broken poles, it’s just a slow process at this point.” Bell said she would hopefully have a better estimate today on how long it will take to restore everyone’s power.
Newnan Utilities had restored power to all city customers by about 1 p.m., said Jeff Phillips, senior director of operations. There were about 2,000 customers impacted during the course of the event, but never more than 400 or so at a time, said Phillips. Most outages were short in duration, with the longest being about two hours.
Coweta-Fayette EMC crews had been working around the clock since the storm hit, and “we’ve had even more crews to come in [Thursday],” Bell said. There are contract crews from Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana and parts of Georgia working to help restore power to Coweta-Fayette EMC customers. “We probably have as many” of the outside crews working as Coweta-Fayette crews, Bell said.
Some Cowetans lost power early Wednesday and were still without it late Thursday, while others experienced much shorter outages.
Some customers expressed frustration on Coweta-Fayette’s Facebook page.
When working to restore power, “we are going after the primary lines first,” Bell said. “Because you’ve got to restore the primary line before you can get to subdivisions and little roads.”
“If we lose a circuit, you may be talking about a couple of thousand people. If we can clear the lines … and bring a lot of people on at one time, then that is what you do."
Repairing primary lines brings on the most people at one time. Plus, in some areas, there may be several different repairs that need to be made before electricity is restored. “You can’t pick somebody up on a road … until you clear the path,” Bell said.
Some customers in neighborhoods with underground power couldn’t understand how they could lose service. “There are overhead lines feeding from the substation to them,” Bell said.
And some customers “think, well, I went out first, you should get to me first,” she said. “But it isn’t all that easy to do, because sometimes you don’t realize how many there are on the way to you."
“I know people don’t understand, but there is a system to the way you have to do it,” Bell said. “And it’s not just us. That’s the way all power companies do it. You’ve got to fix your primary lines and work on down.”
And with ice storms, “it’s one step forward and two back. You fix one line, then 30 minutes later, another tree limb falls and brings the line down again.”
However, by Thursday afternoon, she was hopeful that there would be no new outages.
Customers who will likely face the longest outages are those who live on small roads, away from other homes. Those can be the hardest to get to, as there are many downed lines and downed trees to be cleared along the way.
As of late Thursday, “we are to the point where we have had 40-plus broken poles,” Bell said. “When you have to come in there and totally replace a pole, those kinds of things just take time,” she said. “It’s not like you can go in there in 30 minutes and repair the problem. They may be working hours in one place, replacing poles, restringing wire.”
Geraldine Welch is a Georgia Power customer in Lake Hills on U.S. 29 north. She lost power early Wednesday, and had it restored around midnight on Thursday. But, hours later, some of her neighbors were still without power.
“I don’t understand it,” Welch said. “It is hard to tell why some people don’t have it and others do. I feel really guilty about it.” Welch said they have gas logs at their home, so things weren’t too bad, but “I slept with a toboggan on.”
Kathy Landers, an EMC customer in north Coweta, was without power for about 29 hours. Her family stayed warm, thanks to a propane heater, but didn’t have any lights. When they built their home, they specifically put in a heater that didn’t require electricity because “we saw that sort of being an issue."
She’s worried about some of the things in her refrigerator and freezer. Landers said she put some items out on her deck in the ice, figuring they would stay colder there. And “I’m probably going to do a fridge cleanout … I’m iffy about stuff in the door,” she said. “I’m really nervous about frozen things. You can make yourself very sick. And Hot Pockets just aren’t worth it.”
Landers said the last time she was without power for more than a few hours was 1968. “We had an ice storm to end all ice storms. I remember we were without power for five days,” Landers said. “This scared me,” she said. “We’re not prepared to be out of power… because we’re not used to it down here.”
Perhaps the worst part was “not having any place to charge my Kindle,” she added.
Even being without power for so long, Landers is still happy to have Coweta-Fayette EMC. “EMC is really good about getting things back up quickly,” she said.
On Thursday, she and her daughter “saw an EMC truck going by and we got all excited,” Landers said.
“It was just about 30 minutes later the power came on.”