DREMC: Some still won't have power tonight

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Duck River Electric Membership Corp. linemen and personnel -- augmented by mutual aid crews from instate and out-of-state electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and contractors -- this morning whittled down the number of households affected by outages from Monday's ice storm to 2,810.

But the approach of another winter blast is cause for concern, and DREMC has issued a warning to those still without power.

"Tomorrow morning will be dangerously cold," says Duck River EMC President and CEO Michael Watson. "We will not be able to get everyone's power back on today. There could be 500 or more households facing another night in the dark, but with temperatures plunging to near or below zero by daybreak."

Watson urges co-op members without power to make plans for temporary relocation if they do not have heat sources for their homes. The young and elderly are particularly at risk from extreme cold predicted to settle over Middle Tennessee.

"One of the most important messages we can convey to DREMC members and the public is that they should seek places to spend the night if they don't have adequate heat for their homes," says Watson.

"They should make a decision to stay with family or friends through this dangerously frigid period. They should not wait to see if their power will be restored today. Instead, they must assume the outage will last another 24 hours and plan accordingly."

Public shelters are available in the three counties hardest hit by power outages.

* The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Fair Haven Baptist Church located at 2726 Highway 231 North, Shelbyville. Call 931-680-9803 for more information.

* Marshall County residents are encouraged to find shelter at the Lewisburg Recreation Center, which is located at 1551 Mooresville Highway, Lewisburg. Food is also provided. Call 931-389-2582 or the Marshall County Emergency Management at 931-359-5810 for more information.

* The EMA, along with the Manchester Fire Department and Manchester Police Department, opened an emergency shelter at the Coffee County Raider Academy (the former middle school at 865 McMinnville Highway) to help those without power in the area.

This morning, outage totals by district were as follows: Chapel Hill, 18; Lewisburg, 1,630; Manchester 500; Shelbyville 578; and Columbia, 24.

Although the outage numbers are down, line crews face an uphill battle to repair the hundreds of individual electric services damaged by falling trees, limbs and the weight of ice.

DREMC cannot guarantee when all services will be repaired. In cases where the weather head or meter base was damaged, the co-op member is responsible for repairs. In many cases, the services of a licensed electrician will be required.

Although mutual aid crews have almost doubled DREMC's work force, service line repairs are the slowest part of the outage recovery process.

"We have to work the service lines one at a time. This is why the patience and support of our membership is so appreciated, especially by the men and women who must work in such difficult situations," says Watson.

Sometimes damaged service lines can still be energized. Do not try to remove trees or tree debris from your service line. Always assume service lines and secondary lines are carrying current and extremely dangerous.

Never approach any line on the ground, and never drive over lines that have fallen over roads or driveways.

"Safety -- yours and the line crews' -- is our first priority," Watson points out.

Nineteen outside crews with their bucket trucks and equipment rallied to help DREMC. They came from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, South Pittsburg; Tri-County EMC, Lafayette; Middle Tennessee EMC, Murfreesboro; Shelbyville Power; and Fayetteville Public Utilities. Crews from Alabama included those from Joe Wheeler EMC and Black Warrior Electric Cooperative. Contractor crews rounded out those assisting local linemen.