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Next ice storm could further delay Dinwiddie's power restoration

Posted at 5:10 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 19:00:14-05

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- People who live in Dinwiddie love the country, wooded nature of the county, according to one local leader, but he said those same beloved traits also make the infrastructure highly susceptible to ice and wind storms. Four days since a damaging ice storm struck Central Virginia, thousands of people in Dinwiddie are still without power.

The bulk of electricity in Dinwiddie is provided by either Dominion Energy or Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC).

As of the early evening Tuesday, about 2,000 outages remained for Dominion customers, but 90-percent of SEC customers in Dinwiddie remained in the dark.

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SEC officials said the rural, wooded nature of the county presented several challenges in finding and fixing the extensive damage, despite more than doubling their restoration personnel prior to the storm via mutual aid agreements with other power companies.

“Mother Nature dealt a severe blow to SEC’s distribution system on Saturday with heavy ice that has created multiple broken poles, broken cross arms, and numerous downed power lines,” SEC President and CEO Jeff Edwards wrote in a statement. “SEC is committed to using all resources in our restoration efforts. We have everyone working diligently to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. This restoration will take several days due to the sheer damage that has been left behind.”

The cooperative provides power to customers in 18-counties across Southside Virginia.

More than 28,000 SEC customers were without power as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, with Dinwiddie accounting for 5,400 outages, the most of any locality.

SEC officials said some of their trucks got stuck in saturated ground responding to damage and others had to cut through large trees covering rural roads to reach broken poles and downed lines.

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Across their entire coverage area, SEC reported 207 broken poles, 191 broken cross arms, 352 downed wires, and 32 circuit outages.

With the potential for another ice storm on Thursday, SEC officials said some of the companies they relied on for mutual aid might be called back to their home territories to respond, which could further slow the response. The cooperative said full restoration throughout their territory could take several days.

“SEC understands being without electricity at any time is inconvenient and difficult, but we will get through this winter storm together. We appreciate your patience and understanding. To report outages, call 1-866-878-5514.” a statement from the non-profit said.

At Route One Country Store in Dinwiddie, Shane Woods was working the busy register Tuesday.

His family gets their electricity from Southside Electric and has been dealing with the personal pickles a power outage creates since Saturday morning.

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“I had to go to my cousin’s house the other day to take showers because we couldn’t do that, and they live in Prince George, so that was a trek,” Woods said.

His parents told Woods this was the worst ice storm they had experienced since being without power for weeks back in 1998, so he said he understands the outage might last for some time.

“I know it’s more than what they’re used to. It’s not something they’ve dealt with in years,” he said. “I know it’s going to take a while without [another potential ice storm], and with that coming in as well, it could be even worse.”

One literal bright spot at Route One Tuesday afternoon: the store lights flickered as their generator flipped off because the store got electricity back.

“Yay! The dishwasher works!” one worker said with a cheer and a laugh. “Trust me, we washed those dishes by hand yesterday and it was not pretty!”