‘Twas the night before Christmas when 70 mph winds whipped through Michigan, knocking down trees and power lines, and leaving thousands of Michigan residents without electricity. Collectively the windstorm resulted in nearly 120,000 outages for Michigan’s electric co-ops.
“This event was more challenging than the Christmas ice storm of 2012,” commented Joe McElroy, safety and loss control director for the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association. “Almost every utility I called for help was already busy dealing with outages of their own.” Without sufficient resources available in Michigan, McElroy triggered Michigan’s emergency system and contacted Ohio co-ops for aid.
Great Lakes Energy and Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op (PIE&G) were hit the hardest. Great Lakes Energy’s outages totaled 79,259, and PIE&G was faced with one of their largest restoration projects to date with 20,000 outages. Other co-op outages included Cherryland (3,000); HomeWorks Tri-County (1,800); and Cloverland (14,000). Thumb quickly cleaned-up 250 outages and sent aid to Great Lakes Energy. Alger Delta received help from the City of Escanaba to restore power to 1,000 members, and then sent lineworkers to Great Lakes Energy, too.
Both Great Lakes Energy and PIE&G received mutual aid assistance to tackle their large and widespread outages. Great Lakes Energy was assisted by Alger Delta, Thumb, Midwest Energy, Wolverine Power Cooperative, City of Hillsdale and two Ohio cooperatives – Frontier and Mid-Ohio. With the extra support, Great Lakes Energy was able to restore power to all members by the evening of Dec. 27. PIE&G received assistance from Wolverine Power Cooperative, Chelsea Light & Power, Bay City Light & Power, Cherryland, Great Lakes Power and Pipe, HomeWorks Tri-County, Holland Board of Water and Light, Alpena Power and Hydaker-Wheatlake. PIE&G is still working to get all remaining services restored, but progress is slower as crews focus on individual outages. They estimate one more day of work before restoration efforts are complete.
Mutual aid efforts ensured that electricity was restored to members as quickly as possible, but many people had to sacrifice time with their families over the holiday to make it happen. Joe McElroy and Dan King of MECA spent the holiday coordinating mutual aid efforts along with their municipal utility colleagues, while linemen and support staff worked to restore power to members. All of the effort didn’t go unnoticed. Co-op facebook pages are filled with messages of support and gratitude from members like this one posted by Great Lakes Energy’s Beck Cobb, “THANK YOU all for the countless hours away from your families to help us!”
MECA applauds the personal sacrifices and efforts of everyone involved who took time away from their families to help restore power.