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Sense of community rises during ongoing power outages

Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 at 6:43 PM EST
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DINWIDDIE Co., Va. (WWBT) - The ongoing power outage for thousands of Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) customers is certainly bringing many neighbors closer together in Dinwiddie County.

On Monday, a spokesman for SEC said 922 people started the day off working in the field on outages; of that number 86 were SEC employees.

The number of people in the field has increased since Friday’s announcement of additional crews being brought in; at that time there was an outage force of 783.

“Some neighboring Cooperative’s that did not get hit as hard with this ice storm have sent additional assistance after they finished all of their own repairs,” the spokesman said.

As crews work to restore power to 9,933 customers as of 6 p.m. Monday, some SEC customers are stuck looking at the damage left near their properties.

“Not really much you can do,” said Keith Fulghum. “You just wait, you know.”

For over a week, Fulghum has been waiting for crews to repair nearly a dozen snapped lines near his home.

“Every one of those lines are down,” Fulghum said pointing to the backside of his property. “Every single one of those lines are down.”

The damage in the now supersaturated area has left the Dinwiddie County homeowner concerned about when his power will even come back on.

“You know they’re gonna... probably take half a day putting stuff down just to get back here,” Fulghum said. “What does that make you think, makes you think you’re not gonna get power for another week or two.”

In the meantime, Fulghum has been focused on what he does not have to wait around for.

“It’s our lifeline,” he said. “That’s big blue.”

This diesel-powered generator has been running non-stop between Fulghum’s workshop and his home.

“Just being able to switch that from here to there, just being able to do that is a lot,” Fulghum said. “That means they have to sacrifice being without heat for a while so I can make enough money to come over here and pay the bills.”

Including the amount in gas that has been needed over the last week and a half.

“At least a thousand dollars, minimum; at least a thousand,” Fulghum said.

At times though, he is not just buying for his family. “Yeah I just walk over here, fill his generator up, check his oil,” Fulghum said. He is also thinking about his 80-year-old neighbor.

“I call him Papa,” he said. Also named Bob. “I go over there while he’s asleep, cut it off, fill it up and he ain’t even noticed...He goes ‘I wonder why it was running all night long,’ and I was like ‘yeah, that’s because I went over there to help you out.’”

The quick check-in is something Fulghum tries to do often. “He left his cap off, oil got everywhere...” he said Monday afternoon. Because it is one thing he can control in this time of unknowns.

“Top it off for old Bob,” Fulghum said. “Alright, now he should be good.”

On Saturday, SEC President Jeff Edwards said he anticipated having 95% of its customer back on the grid by Wednesday.

Monday Edwards released the following statement:

“Power restoration efforts are complex. There is no way around that fact. Individual poles must be dragged hundreds of feet into muddy terrain to be set by hand. This work is dangerous even in the best of conditions, and the wet weather we continue to see has made for extremely hazardous conditions. We know these conditions are dangerous for you as you try to maintain normal life without power. Our hearts break for you because we truly know what you are facing. We want to assure you that we are working as hard and fast as we can, but safety always must come first.

“We are focused on the task at hand — restoring your power. We know there are issues that need to be addressed and discussed with our members. We will have a frank and transparent discussion as soon as the lights are back on. Thank you for your patience and prayers for the safety of our line crew.”

As of 5 p.m., SEC said crews have restored power to 37,800 customers; at the peak of the storm, more than 48,000 members were without power. Crews have repaired 263 poles and replaced 77 of 625 broken poles.

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