Outage Restoration 101- A Message from the General Manager

When storms come along like the ones we experienced yesterday, we are all awed by the power of Mother Nature, and as soon as we get over the shock, we immediately start asking a series of questions like:

  • When is my power going to be back on?
  • Why haven’t I seen anyone at my house?
  • I saw them drive by; why didn’t they stop at my house?
  • Don’t they know I’m out too?

These are all the same questions I used to ask 18 years ago before I came to work at the Coop, and the answer to each is: It Depends. 

It depends on what happened and where, and that all depends on the member understanding our system and their proximity to their source of power. I hear you; “Mark, just stop with the technical explanation and answer my question.” OK, you live at Point A, which, for this illustration, is Domino, TX. Your source of power is Point B, which is our Blalock substation almost 5 miles west of Queen City on FM 96. Anything that happens between Point A and Point B is going to affect your power. We always have to start at the source and move toward the end of the line. Making repairs at Domino and not at Blalock restores power to no one. This is why you may not have seen our crews yet, or you may see them drive by without stopping. Not only do we work from the source, but we also work to restore the largest number of members first and work down to single-member outages.

The second factor is resources. If each of you will make a habit of looking at our outage map on our website you can get a good picture of what’s going on. It shows how many are without power, where, and the total number of outages. A few small dots on the map are easily remedied. A lot of dots or large highlighted areas are more problematic. Large storms across our entire service territory take a much bigger toll on our limited resources. The storms that rolled through yesterday left damage from Talco to Bloomburg and all points in between. When we have every available employee deployed in the field, we have about 45 guys. You take out 15 or so that are trouble-shooters, and the remainder is what we have to make up 4-5 line crews. We solicit our sister Cooperatives to get additional resources, and assuming they haven’t also had storms, they are all too willing to help.

Let’s not forget another very important factor impacting our system and restoration time. We love living in East Texas, and our trees are part of the allure of living here. Fallen trees and limbs is the number one issue we have during storms. Our widest right of way (ROW) is 30 feet or 15 feet from the center of the line to the wood line. Almost every tree in East Texas is taller than 15 feet and thus poses a threat to our system.

In many cases, we spend more time removing trees to gain access to damaged lines than it takes to make the repairs. Keep in mind 90% of our ROWs are on private property, and very few are along any thoroughfares. This makes them more susceptible to trees and harder to access.

I realize none of this makes you feel any better when you’ve been out of power for any amount of time, especially if it’s protracted over the course of days. It’s simply the logistics of working with a vast electrical distribution system located off the beaten path with many trees. We have a methodology to utilize our limited resources and the ones we can borrow from other Cooperatives to restore your power as quickly and SAFELY as possible. We are never satisfied with the pace and always strive to do better.

We appreciate your patience, understanding, and, most of all, your thoughts and prayers for the guys in the field, working long hours away from their families to help get your power back on.

Thank you!

Mark A. Boyd

General Manager