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Originally published: 2012-11-15 12:31:23
Last modified: 2012-11-15 12:31:23

Mountain Electric responds quickly to power crisis after Sandy

Jamie Shell / (sports@averyjournal.com)

Although residents in Avery County and surrounding areas serviced by Mountain Electric Cooperative did not experience the utter devastation last month that impacted the Northeast by Hurricane Sandy, the area felt a number of effects, including gusty winds and snow. The inclement weather caused some headaches to local citizens, primarily by way of power outages due to downed trees and power lines.

Mountain Electric Cooperative responded promptly to residents without power, restoring lights and heat to many residents within a matter of hours. 

Danny Cuthbertson, district manager with Mountain Electric Cooperative, reported a combined total of 1,150 residents who experienced power outages caused by the storm from about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, until 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Six crews of five men each serviced power lines around the clock during that time, and outages were not concurrent, meaning that some customers experienced an outage of only one to two hours, while other outlying areas may have experienced longer delays in service.

“In a storm, we work to repair our most concentrated lines with most customers first, then you keep working that down,” Cuthbertson explained. “The last 100 customers are usually the hardest to get back online, because there might be a case where it may take three hours just to get one house back online.”

The largest concentration of outages occurred on Beech Mountain, where the area experienced two separate episodes. The latter outage was caused days after Sandy’s remnants left the High Country, as a TVA line snapped that powers part of the mountain due to ice load. The 161-volt power line had to be repaired by a TVA crew of 10 men, and power was lost for a number of residents from 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2.

Cuthbertson credited much of the success and promptness in restoration of power to a program of preemptive maintenance implemented by MEC during the summer months.

“What has helped us more than anything has been our tree Right-Of-Way Program. If it hadn’t been for that program, this outage could have been much worse and would have made for a much longer process to get customers back online,” Cuthbertson explained. “With this outage, it was large trees the wind blew over into the 40-foot right-of-way. A key factor to prompt service is having that right-of-way cleared out. We can get in without having to clear trees and the work saves time during outages. The preventative maintenance really helps out during a storm. You can’t help the ice load that takes down a line, but the clear right-of-way makes it safer for the workers and saves time.”

Cuthbertson advises that any MEC customer experiencing power outages should call MEC’s Newland office at (828) 733-0159.