Let’s just say it – we’re tired of cold weather. This winter has brought us bitter cold, snow, and multiple rounds of ice. Statewide, our systems have experienced tremendous damage that has taken days – in some cases weeks – to repair.
The Cumberland Plateau was hit the hardest with an inch of ice. High winds compounded the strain, resulting in fallen tree limbs, downed power lines and broken poles.
Cumberland County Emergency Management officials called it the “worst natural disaster in the history of Cumberland County.” Veteran emergency responders said the damage was comparable to an EF-2 tornado ravaging the entire county. Clyde Jolley, longtime Volunteer Energy Cooperative employee, said, “In my 42 years with VEC, this is one of the worst weather events I’ve ever seen. We had more than 700 broken poles and an estimated $9.5 million in damage to the system.”
At the peak of the storm some 40,000 VEC members lost power. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s transmission line outages caused a loss of power to five VEC substations, and major breakers were lost at three other substations.
Nature can destroy in a few hours what took years to build. Before the storm left the area, VEC employees were already hard at work for their members, calling for assistance from neighboring cooperatives.
The hallowed cooperative principle of Cooperation among Cooperatives took center stage from the beginning of the storm until the last member was reconnected many days later.
VEC crews received assistance from crews from Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Athens Utility Board, Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative, Holston Electric Cooperative, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Rockwood Electric Utilities, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation as well as contract crews from Davis Elliott, Galloway, MPS, Seelbach and Service Electric.
Co-op members, many of whom were without power for days, recognized the difficulty of the situation and the effort that VEC was making.
Rody Blevins said 650 people were on the scene working to restore power and were supported by dozens of other staff members. “We appreciate the hard work of our folks and the help we received from around the region,” Blevins said. “And we especially appreciate the patience and support from all our members who were affected by this devastating storm.
“This has been one of the most challenging weather events in the history of Volunteer Energy Cooperative, and we are very grateful for the cooperation, dedication and patience of everyone involved.”
The members of Volunteer Energy Cooperative can attest to the fact that Cooperation among Cooperatives isn’t just a mantra; it’s how we co-ops do business.