“If there’s going to be a big storm that causes widespread outages, you can bet it will probably happen over a holiday,” claims Joe McElroy, safety director and mutual aid coordinator at MECA.
Turns out he may be onto something.
That was certainly the case last week as a large-scale outage event took place over the Labor Day holiday. Storms raced through Michigan on Tuesday night, Aug. 28, leaving a wake of destruction behind them. The National Weather Service confirmed five tornados touched down, with winds up to 100 miles per hour.
The storms caused outages for all MECA member co-ops in the lower peninsula, but Great Lakes Energy was the hardest hit. The co-op restored power to more than 46,800 members affected by tornados, wind and rain. Thankfully, they didn’t have to face the task alone. Great Lakes Energy received mutual aid support from multiple co-ops (Alger Delta, Cherryland, HomeWorks and Wolverine) and municipalities (Bay City, Chelsea, Escanaba, Hart and Traverse City).
All together, Great Lakes Energy received help from 34 additional electric crews and 45 tree crews. The teams worked tirelessly all week long and through the holiday to restore power for all members. Restorations were completed by Tuesday, Sept. 4, which means some members were out of power for up to a week.
The damage was extensive,” said McElroy. “Several contractors said it was the worst they had ever seen.” Great Lakes Energy alone had over 364 broken poles, a new record the co-op doesn’t want to revisit.
Many other departments worked long days and nights, too, including dispatchers, member service reps, purchasing staff, vegetation management, IT, engineering and bird-dogs from many departments. Members were able to stay informed during the extended outage through the co-op’s website and Facebook page. GLE added over 800 new Facebook followers and fielded over 200 private messages through the social media platform during the course of the event.
Restoring power in this type of event requires a tremendous amount of team effort. As the next holiday rolls around, you can bet McElroy and the mutual aid partners will continue to monitor the weather closely, always prepared to spring into action.