Responding in adverse conditions

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

The months of May and June brought active weather to Oklahoma. With ongoing severe weather, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives responded on behalf of their membership. Co-op line crews worked diligently in adverse conditions to ensure power was safely restored to each consumer-member. Collectively, co-ops incurred an estimated $2.75 million in infrastructure damages. 

The National Weather Service (NWS) Norman, Oklahoma, recently shared preliminary tornado facts and stats for the month of May 2019. The NWS Tulsa also shared some data. Here are a few highlights: 

  • NWS Norman reports 61 tornadoes in Oklahoma in the month of May. There were a total 83 tornadoes as of May 30, 2019 in the year. 
  • NWS Norman reports there was a tornado every day in the state from May 20 through May 25. 
  • NWS Norman issued 84 tornado warnings in the month of May; NWS Tulsa issued 75 warnings in May.
  • NWS Tulsa reports 48 total tornadoes for the month of May. This sets the record for most tornadoes in May; the previous record was 39 tornadoes in 2010.

The series of tornadoes and severe weather brought about extreme flooding conditions in some areas of the state, with the most impacted areas in northeastern, portions of central, and northern Oklahoma. On May 25, President Trump approved an emergency declaration for 10 counties in northeastern Oklahoma. On June 1, the White House approved a Major Disaster declaration for Muskogee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties. 

Electric co-op line crews showed resiliency and collaboration in the face of trying circumstances. In a display of cooperative spirit, Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC) based in Hulbert, Oklahoma, collaborated with OG&E to re-route power through a tie-line to temporarily restore power to the city of Braggs in eastern Oklahoma. This collaboration enabled citizens in Braggs to have power sooner while OG&E worked on needed repairs. 

Electric co-ops are grounded in the principle of cooperation. Mutual aid crews came to the aid of sister cooperatives during this time as well. Crews from TCEC based in Hooker, Oklahoma, Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative in Seminole, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Electric Cooperative in Norman, Oklahoma, assisted line crews in Vinita-based Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative service territory. Additionally, mutual aid crews from Alfalfa Electric Cooperative based in Cherokee, Oklahoma, along with a contract construction crew from Rural Electric Cooperative based in Lindsay, Oklahoma, assisted in the repair and restoration efforts at LREC.  

Co-ops are still dealing with the aftermath of these extreme weather events, ensuring their systems are built back in a safe, affordable, efficient and reliable manner. We commend our line crews for rising to the occasion, as they always do, to ensure your lights stay on.

 

Positioning co-ops for the future

Tim Smith
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

How many of us have heard the words “you reap what you sow”? It is a fundamental premise of life, and it rings true for electric cooperatives as well. When I take the time to reflect on the pioneers who led the rural electrification movement, I think about how gut-wrenching it must have been to pursue such a monumental task: that of establishing electric cooperatives from the ground up to bring power to rural America for the first time. Today, we reap the fruits of their labor. We benefit from their drive, dedication and determination to improve the quality of life in rural America for generations to come. While we think about their toil with gratitude, we know the work must go on. 

Through the years, technology has made incredible advances—in many ways bringing innovation to the electric cooperative industry. Gone are the days when a member would read the meter and mail the readings to the co-op office. Gone are the days when linemen left for the field with paper maps to try and find the location of an outage; there were no cellphones, laptops or iPads to access real-time outage information and location. Technology has brought about innovation, transformation and new challenges.

As cooperative leaders, our No. 1 challenge is to position co-ops for the future so we can carry on our mission of delivering safe, reliable and affordable electricity. With the prominence of digital technologies, we look into sustainable, efficient and affordable ways to continue providing this essential service to our members. The industry has growing opportunities in battery storage, renewable fuel sources and technology, cleaner fossil fuel generation methods and the advent of electric vehicles, smart appliances and devices that enable members to save more on their electric bill. 

Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are committed to seeking ways to improve the quality of life for our consumer-members. We are consistently asking ourselves what we can do to better serve our membership. This is the cooperative difference. We care. We are invested. We are member focused. The industry continues to evolve, but our passion and drive remain the same as our founding leaders. We desire for future generations to reap the benefits from our work today. Like our pioneers, we will continue to pave the way.