Pioneer ready for storm

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 8, 2005

Pioneer serves areas primarily past the city limit sign &045; in rural areas. We have 2,700 miles of power line that covers one of the most forested, rural areas of Alabama (Butler, Dallas, Lowndes and Wilcox Counties). We have about 5 customers per mile of line, compared to Alabama Power that serves upwards of 40 per mile. That means we have to mobilize eight times the effort to get the same amount of customers back on. That’s also the reason it costs more to supply power in the rural areas and to get it back on following a natural disaster. We are in full-readiness mode and crews will be here as early as Saturday afternoon in preparation for the storm. Crews are coming from as far away as Missouri, Arkansas and the Carolinas. Hurricane Ivan was a $4 million storm for Pioneer Electric Cooperative. (The tornadoes that swept through April 30 cost the co-op more than $75,000.)

As with Ivan, expect your electricity to go out early on and for it to be out several days. Several issues will not make this situation better. One, the ground is extremely wet in places that we serve. Combined with the high wind that is forecast, we expect even more trees to topple onto power line than they did during Ivan &045; making it more difficult and for electricity to be out longer. Also, hotel rooms booked up much sooner this time than they did with Hurricane Ivan &045; evacuees just aren’t taking a chance on getting hotel rooms this time and booked far in advance. We do have local rooms for many of the workers, but some workers will be staying as much as an hour away from the office.

Early on, there’s no need to call the utility to report an outage, as we have a handle on widespread outages early on with the use of technology. All emergency situations should be reported to 911.

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There is a methodical process to restoring electricity, similar to getting a strand of Christmas tree lights to work. You get the power on at the wall outlet first. For us, that’s the substation and getting energy there is the job of the power generation company, not Pioneer. Second, the main line has to be up, then you work on the &8220;bulbs&8221;, that’s the individual taps off the line. Often a neighbor will have electricity, while yours will be out. It’s all how the power grid is laid out.

Staff reports