Crews race to restore power ahead of more icy weather

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 12:21 AM EST
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NOTTOWAY Co., Va. (WWBT) - While Dominion Energy and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative have seen expedited success in restoring power, efforts are proving a bit more challenging in rural areas of Virginia.

Leaders with Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) said roughly 50% of its customers were still without power as of Tuesday afternoon.

While slow and steady may win the race, the race must pick up now that more icy weather is headed this way.

“We’re not sitting back just waiting to see what happens,” said Ron White, Vice President of SEC’s Public and Member Relations.

Even before Saturday’s storm, Southside Electric Cooperative had called in extra help, adding contractors and other co-op crews from out of the area.

“This has been a historic ice storm,” White said. “It has been the most devastating ice storm in the area in recent history that anyone can remember.”

At the storm’s peak, White said 80% of its customers were left in the dark.

“I don’t have power at my house either, but we’re coming for you; be patient with us, it’s a process,” said Lacey Palmore, a staking technician with SEC.

It has certainly been a process for SEC’s coverage area from Petersburg to Altavista.

“You’re almost nearly building your entire structure back; your entire infrastructure,” Palmore said.

Those restoration efforts have also been filled with numerous challenges.

“So, with all of the downed trees that we’ve been dealing with, just getting to the system to assess the damage, having to cut trees, clear roads just to get there has been a huge obstacle in itself,” White said.

On top of that, special equipment is required to navigate through this saturated terrain. Crews working in conditions vastly different from the metro area.

“Right here, I’ve got nine broke double-span poles,” Palmore said. “It takes a long time to get those put back together.”

Each pole taking more than an hour to get outfitted with the proper pieces of equipment and then placed upright.

However, these workers are up for the challenge, even with the threat of another ice storm.

“The greatest concern that we have is all of the ground we’ve made over the past several days, this storm coming in could very well put us back to square one,” White said.

“There’s no need to worry; we’re here, this is our job,” Palmore added. “If you do this kind of work, you do it because you love it.”

Additionally, power companies are reminding homeowners and renters to avoid running generators near or in homes.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management said over the weekend there were numerous house fires and carbon monoxide-related illnesses reported across the state due to portable generators and heaters.

The Virginia Poison Center received 23 calls about carbon monoxide poisoning over the weekend calling it “an alarming number for the Central Virginia area.”

To report an outage with Southside Electric, click here.

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