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'Scattered outages' could run into next week; 4,300 REC members still without power

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jan 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 00:14:33-05

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — More than 4,300 Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) members remain without power late Sunday following last Monday's snowstorm knocked out power to 98,000 members, according to the cooperative's online outage tracker.

Most of the outages were in Louisa (1,719) Spotsylvania (1,311), Orange (235), and Caroline (339). Hanover County was reporting 440 outages as of 11:55 p.m. Sunday.

The remaining outages include more than 900 separate outage "events," each could crews take more than half a day for repairs and service restoration, according to officials.

"Most larger outage events will clear up over the weekend, ”REC spokesperson Casey Hollins wrote. “Because REC has hundreds of mutual-aid crews helping in the field, they will also now be able to tackle smaller outages throughout REC’s communities. With this storm, the electric grid was shaken to its foundation. To those still without power, please know that more than 1,000 field workers are working as quickly and safely as they can to get your lights and your heat back on for you.”

Officials with the cooperative estimated most outages should be restored by Sunday night, but warned that "scattered smaller outages" would likely continue into next week.

Man without power frustrated: 'Some underlying systemic problem'

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) officials said power has been restored to 89,000 members who lost electricity during Monday's snowstorm, according to an update Saturday. However, thousands are still without power in Louisa County.

"As a REC member, I'm concerned that there appears to be some underlying systemic problem with the way they address this," said Elias Hall, who has been without power in his Louisa County home for nearly a week. "For all of the residents along Cedar Hill Road and Louisa County, Virginia., there's been absolutely no power."

His power was knocked out during Monday's winter storm and he now worries about those in his neighborhood.

"Some of my neighbors about to freeze to death," Hall said. "We have elderly folks, neighbors that require constant attention to make sure they have appropriate heat, and you know, warm food, fresh water, things like that."

Poster image (66).jpg
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Executive Director and CEO John Hewa.

Cooperative CEO: 'Challenges' have impacted 'ability to get in'

"It's still really our toughest hit county at the moment, we have about 4,000 meters off out of the 12,600 that we serve," Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Executive Director and CEO John Hewa said.

Additional co-ops in Virginia are helping as well as mutual aid co-ops and contractors from 12 states, according to Hewa.

Virginia National Guard soldiers also chipped in Saturday to help cut trees for REC crews to get through, which Hewa said has been part of the challenge to get to downed lines.

Virginia National Guard

"So those challenges have been a tremendous impact to our ability to get in and get the response," Hewa explained. "Likewise, when we're bringing in such a large, large workforce from all these different states, we have to provide accommodations for these crews, we need to find a place for them to be able to get some rest, we've got to get those trucks actually in here."

However, for Hall, who is a REC member, he believes the power company should have been better prepared.

"There's debris in the road that's been there since the storm. I mean there are transformers wires," Hall said. "Thankfully none of them are alive. But it's difficult for vehicles to pass through.

As of 11:55 p.m. Sunday, REC reported more than 1,700 members still don’t have power in Louisa County. That's the highest percentage in counties REC serves.

While the company is urging patience from it’s members, Hall just hopes the lights can kick back on soon.
"Seems to me somebody dropped the ball at the higher level and it certainly isn't these poor crews out here working because they are given an everything they've got," Hall said.

"Be patient with us," Hewa added. "We will get out there we will get someone a qualified electrical line worker to take a look. And we'll do whatever tree work and line work we're going to need to do get your lights and your power back restored."

Officials with the cooperative estimated that the majority of outages should be restored by Sunday night, but warned that "scattered smaller outages will continue into next week."

Those who need assistance over the weekend in Louisa County, can call the Emergency Operations Center at 540-967-1234.

Sunday notes from fRappahannock Electric Cooperative:

  • More than 900 individual outage events remain – many requiring at least several hours’ worth of repairs.
  • Hundreds of broken poles remain to be fixed and more broken poles are being found as crews work deeper into nested outages.
  • Ground conditions and other obstacles require specialized equipment such as track machines to reach damage sites to replace the poles.
  • Tree damage was significant, and tree removal continues with the help of REC’s vegetation management team, contractors, state and local emergency responders, and mutual aid crews from across the country.
  • In addition to poles, hundreds of transformers, fuses and other critical equipment still needs to be repaired.
  • A workforce of 1,200 lineworkers from REC and across the country are now working around the clock to make repairs and restore service as quickly and safely as possible. More crews have been brought in every day as they have become available.
  • Crews may come and go from work sites for a variety of reasons: They continue to do damage assessments, and sometimes the damage discovered requires a different type of crew or equipment than was already on site. Restoration starts by pinging meters electronically around a reported outage to gain a wider perspective of how large of an outage area exists; logging all outage reports into the system to account for each map location that has lost power and dispatching line crews immediately to areas of identified and confirmed outages.
  • Though the co-op knows there are reported outages, the exact cause is not yet known. Each situation is unique and field crews first must be investigators in determining where the problem is on the power line path. When there is severe damage from downed trees, field crews may not be in a position to directly drive to the problem area. At times they must drive around an outage area that can span several miles or walk a line for a mile or more to reach the outage cause.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.