How do electric cooperatives prioritize repairs after a major storm? Whenever the electricity goes out, we’ve come to expect service will be restored within a few hours at most. But when a major ice storm or tornadoes cause widespread damage, longer outages cannot be helped. Line crews work long and hard to restore service, but it’s a task that needs to be done methodically and safely.
Every cooperative follows a basic principle when it comes to restoring power: priority goes to the lines that will get the most people back in service the quickest. This usually begins with main lines and continues out to tap lines and then to individual service lines.
Exceptions are made for people on life-supporting medical equipment. Notify us immediately if someone in your family uses such equipment. It's also a good idea to always have a backup generator ready.
A big storm has just hit our service area. What happens next?
In the above simplified diagram, most of the area is without power. Fortunately, the substation serving the area is energized. It’s receiving power from the transmission lines, shown in red. But a main distribution line from the substation to most of the area is damaged, leaving most of the members in this area without power.
All repairs start with the main line. A large number of members down the line will have power returned once the main line is repaired. As seen in the graphic below, with the main line now restored (now shown in red), the line crews can better isolate other damage and prioritize further repairs.
Though a couple of repairs were closer, fixing the line into this subdivision down the road will get many more members on faster, as noted in the graphic below.
Moving back down the road, the crew stops by this intersection to fix a damaged tap line. The graphic below shows that this repair restores power to the homes (shown with orange arrows) along this stretch of line.
Another tap line serving a number of homes and a farm on the hill is next on the list for this hard-working line crew, as seen in the graphic below.
At this point, neighboring members may begin to wonder why their power hasn't been restored. They see lights in the homes of their neighbors. They’ve seen line crews going by their home and working right across the road, yet they still have not power.
Electricity is coming to the pole outside their homes (that happened with the first repair in Step One), but the service line from the pole to their home is damaged. Repairs like these to individual homes come after crews have performed all the larger fixes.
Members should always rest assured that our line crews don't stop working until all power has been restored. Our procedures help us maintain some of the shortest outage restoration times in the country.
Please note that our line crew may need to come out in the following days and weeks to make long-term repairs and rebuild sections of line that were severely damaged by the storm. This might mean you will find blinking clocks when you get home from work or be notified of planned short-term power outages. It might also mean tree-trimming crews will be in the area to make sure rights-of-way are clear of overhanging tree branches. Wind and ice storms can topple trees into power lines which account for many of the outages in wooded areas.