Service restored across Coweta
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Last Wednesday’s ice storm left thousands of Cowetans in the dark, with outages ranging from less than 30 minutes to as much as five days.
Around 43,000 Coweta-Fayette EMC customers, in the co-op’s nine-county service area, were without power during some part of the storm. The most customers who were out at one time totaled about 21,000, said Mary Ann Bell, vice president of public relations and communications. Some customers saw power go out more than once because of falling trees.
Bell estimates that last week’s storm was second only to Hurricane Opal in 1995, in terms of power outages for EMC customers.
“We’ve had winter storms and tornadoes since then, but Opal did more damage,” Bell said.
There were approximately 6,300 Georgia Power customers in Coweta County who experienced power outages lasting four hours or more, said Carol Boatright with Georgia Power.
Newnan Utilities saw approximately 2,000 outages, but never more than about 400 at a time. Most outages were very short in duration, with the longest being about two hours, said Jeff Phillips, senior director of operations.
While many Cowetans got their power back on Thursday, the wait was much longer for some.
The majority of Georgia Power customers got their power back by Friday, said Boatright. A few — four or five — were without until “very early Saturday morning,” she said.
By early Saturday, there were 200 EMC customers still without power in Coweta. By 5 p.m. Saturday, that was down to 42.
Coweta-Fayette crews and contractors completed work to restore service — and all customers was restored late Sunday night, Bell said. Some customers could not be reconnected, however, until needed repairs were done to their homes.
The length of the outages was due to “the amount of time it took to clear debris and replace broken poles and wire,” Bell said. "We can't just go out and restore power to one service before the line carrying the electricity from the substation is repaired. In lots of cases, the line was repaired and another tree would fall and electricity was interrupted once again."
It took longer to restore power to some rural subdivisions than it did those that were located near substations, she said.
Bell said the major complaint that they received during the outages was that “we can’t tell them exactly when their power will be restored.”
But no power company can do that, Bell said. “It’s hard to predict how long it will take to clear lines, and replace broken poles and wire.”
Even though some customers were without power for several days, “they understood that it might take time and they appreciate the fact that they normally receive reliable service,” Bell said. “We really appreciate all of our members who have been so understanding.”
Bell said Coweta-Fayette plans to “review in great detail the storm communications information and determine if there are any potential enhancements or opportunities that will improve service to our members.
“Continuous improvement is something that is part of our work ethic,” Bell said.