Ice Storm Damages
Early season ice storm leads to devastating damage across Oklahoma
Photo courtesy of Southeastern Electric Cooperative while providing mutual aid assistance in Southwest Rural Electric Association service area.
On Sunday, October 25, a significant winter storm system began to develop in Oklahoma. The system, which brought an ice storm warning for most of central and parts of western Oklahoma, was considered historic due to its early fall timeline.
At its peak, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives experienced more than 77,695 outages. The ice storm brought ice accumulations up to 4 inches in some areas, causing significant damage to electric utility infrastructure. Heavy ice accumulations caused trees to snap and limbs and branches to break, making power outages even more likely in this ice storm event. This event caused multi-day outages lasting anywhere from a few hours to two weeks in hardest-hit areas. Collectively, utilities in the state of Oklahoma, including investor-owned and a few municipalities, reported more than 500,000 consumers without power.
“An ice storm of this nature typically happens well into the winter season, not in the fall. But our co-ops had a fair amount of warning and they were quick to respond and mobilize other crews to help,” said Sid Sperry, director of public relations and communications at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC).
Mutual aid crews from at least 17 electric cooperatives—including sister cooperatives from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas and multiple contractor crews assisted impacted co-ops in Oklahoma.
“Ice storms create havoc in our industry, and no one expected a storm of this magnitude this early in the fall season,” said OAEC General Manager Chris Meyers. “We appreciate all linemen who left the comfort of their homes to assist the hardest-hit electric cooperatives in adverse conditions. Their commitment to help others truly underscores the strength of the cooperative spirit.”
Early estimates from impacted electric cooperatives indicate 4,200-plus poles and 9,000 cross arms were destroyed, in addition to hundreds of thousands of damaged conductor spans, plus damaged transformers, meter loops and special equipment. Collectively, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives estimate more than $26 million in damages.
Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, a generation and transmission electric cooperative and the power supplier for 17 rural distribution electric cooperatives in Oklahoma, plus the Altus Air Force base, reported scores of transmission structures were down or heavily damaged, including a 19-mile stretch of downed 138 kilovolt line, located on both sides of Tuttle, Oklahoma. This stretch of line alone consists of some 142 structures, including both single transmission poles and H-structures.
Restoration efforts following this event lasted several weeks with the last remaining residential outage restored on November 10. Residential outages were the priority in this effort, leaving some commercial, industries and farm accounts for later restoration timeline.
On October 26, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an Emergency Declaration for 47 Oklahoma counties due to severe winter weather, freezing rain and ice accumulations. On November 13, Stitt requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government for 13 Oklahoma counties that were hard hit by this ice event. The declaration was requested for the following counties: Caddo, Canadian, Cleveland, Dewey, Grady, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Logan, Noble, Oklahoma, Payne, Pottawatomie and Roger Mills. Other counties may be added at a later date.