KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. –A group of Clay Electric Cooperative (CEC) employees are expected to return home on Wednesday, Feb. 19 after spending six days helping a South Carolina electric co-op recover from a damaging ice storm. Coastal Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Walterboro, S. C., had nearly all of its 11,600 members out of power as a result of the storm.
Coastal, along with electric utilities across the Southeastern U.S., suffered damage last week due to ice-covered tree limbs breaking off and falling across distribution lines and equipment.
According to Coastal Electric, as of today, nearly 90 percent of its members had their power back on. A Coastal spokesperson said the remaining 10 percent might take a while longer because some of these accounts are more difficult to access.
Clay Electric has been praised by Coastal Electric’s members for helping restore power, including these comments from Scott and Christy Carter of Lodge, S.C.:
“Our community is in debt to you and your crews. They have been working nonstop to help those without power from the devastating ice storm that hit our area. My husband and I live in Lodge, a rural area in Colleton County (S.C.), and we are always last on the grid to get our electricity restored. My husband's grandmother, two houses down from us, is on oxygen. When we saw those yellow Clay Electric trucks on our road, it was like seeing angels bringing us a priceless gift! When we talked to these fine men, thanked them and told them about our situation, they worked until the power was restored. They even came back the next day to make sure we still had power and checked on all of us. That is something that we will never forget. We will always hold Clay Electric in high regard! When our own power company was overwhelmed by the damage, Clay Electric stepped up! Saying thank you really doesn't cover how much gratitude we feel. I wanted to tell you that your company has some really wonderful, kind and compassionate men.”
Clay sent 25 personnel from its central construction division and five of its six districts to South Carolina, along with 15 vehicles.
Clay Electric will be reimbursed by Coastal for all of its expenses associated with the restoration effort. Coastal Electric will likely seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Clay Electric has assistance agreements with other cooperatives in the state and region so it can call on other cooperatives for help if the need arises. Clay has sent crews to other parts of Florida in recent years to help them restore service after hurricanes caused damage, and cooperatives from as far away as Minnesota and Nevada sent crews to help Clay and other Florida cooperatives when hurricanes visited the state in 2004 and 2005.
Photo captions: Top: Clay Electric's Randy Reddish, equipment operator, and Jimmy Andrews, serviceman, re-conducting a line after a fallen tree pulled it down.
Bottom: Clay Electric Cooperative first class linemen Matt Hickey (in bucket) and Bruce Sapp rebuild a line in Colleton County, S.C. on February 14. They were among the first crews on the scene after the Feb. 11 ice storm.
Photos courtesy South Carolina Living Magazine