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Frustration with Southside Electric Cooperative grows: 'People are being left in the dark'

Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 18:41:50-05

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- A spokesperson for Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) said Friday that the co-op has "increased the number of crewmen working to restore power" to nearly 800 people after last weekend's ice storm knocked out power to 80% of its members.

One week after the storm, more than 20,000 SEC remain without electricity in Dinwiddie County and other rural Virginia communities.

"There's absolutely no communication. People are absolutely being left in the dark, both figuratively and literally right now," Jason Dean, who lost power last week, said.

"I think in a time like today, not having communication with such a wide portion of our rural state is just criminal," Michelle Scheid, who also lost power last week, added.

Both appreciate the hard work of field crews working to restore power.

Neither understand the SEC's plan and reaction to the ice storm.

How elected officials are helping Southside Electric Cooperative restore power to 20,000+

"If there is something in place, then shame on them for not letting us know what they're really doing," Scheid said.

Co-op member David Fox suspects SEC failed to bring in enough people get the job done in a timely manner.

An issue SEC address in a statement Friday.

"SEC pre-staged their entire staff, and mutual aid crews from out of state before the onset of the storm last Thursday. As conditions worsened, the Co-op requested more assistance from neighboring Cooperatives and additional crews from out of state," the statement read. "Ongoing extreme weather events in Texas and Oklahoma pulled many mutual aid crews away from Virginia. Crews that came early in the week to assist were called back to their respective co-ops to pre-stage for a second winter storm, which had been forecasted to impact Southside, Central, and Southwestern regions of Virginia, as well as North Carolina and South Carolina."

SEC President and CEO Jeff Edwards said the storm destroyed nearly 80 percent of the co-op's electric infrastructure.

"This is the worst storm I have seen in my 14 years at Southside and 36 years in the industry,” he said.

Even with the added help, it may take several more days before power to be fully restored.

"I think this is a learning experience for them, that I don't think they were prepared at all," Fox said.

To report outages, please telephone 1-866-878-5514.