Missouri crews help bring power back for thousands each day since Hurricane Michael

More than 100 linemen from Missouri electric cooperatives, including workers from the Lake of the Ozarks region, joined hundreds of others from around the country late last week to begin working on restoring power to parts of Florida hard hit by Hurricane Michael.

On Monday, October 15, 2018, Three Rivers Electric Cooperative estimated that less than 22,000 of approximately 55,000 customers of Talquin Electric remained without power.

Co-Mo Electric Cooperative had previously estimated on Sunday morning that Missouri crews had helped reduce outages in the Talquin Electric Cooperative from a high of 50,000-plus to 29,000 since arriving Thursday, October 11. 

On Friday, the outage numbers had already been reduced to 48,000 as the efforts of the Missouri crews and their Florida counterparts made a dent in the damage. 

At the height of the outages, 98 percent of Talquin members were without power, and its infrastructure sustained comprehensive damage - approximately 1,000 broken poles and numerous downed wires - throughout the entire service territory, Talquin Electric reported on its Facebook page. 

“Missouri's crews are fighting a lot of heavy damage caused by wind and falling trees with much of the work involving replacing poles, cross arms and getting downed lines up off the ground. In the coastal areas storm surge has knocked out several switch cabinets,” Three Rivers reported in a Facebook post. “Talquin crews, members and passers-by have had nothing but words of thanks and hopes of safety for our lineworkers. The guys are still hungry for more work and are back at it early Monday morning.”

The crews have been putting in 16-hour days, but are being well treated by their hosts with plenty to eat. Some of the food is coming from grateful members who are dropping off desserts, bottled water and even barbecue.

“Your dedicated and hardworking linemen have been tirelessly cutting and clearing on my road in Havana, Florida,” Talquin member Grayson Touchton posted on Central Missouri Electric Cooperative’s Facebook page. “We are west of Tallahassee and we sustained a great deal of damage and are all without power. Our road appeared to have been hit by a tornado, as more than half a mile of huge pines and oaks were snapped in half, taking poles and lines with them. Please know how thankful and appreciative we are for sending your crews far from home to take care of total strangers. I stopped and thanked every person on every truck today. Please know you are making a huge difference for many people. God bless all of you.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott stopped by Talquin headquarters Saturday and personally thanked the linemen assisting in the restoration. Many members reported having power back around midnight as crews stayed with the job well after dark.

Since arriving Thursday, October 11, the Missouri linemen had to cut their way into the final approaches to Talquin Electric Cooperative, one of the Florida electric cooperatives that was near the center of the massive storm.

Just short of their goal after a long drive from a staging area in Athens, Georgia, the cooperative linemen pulled out their chain saws and cut for nearly three hours before the road could be cleared enough to reach Talquin Electric headquarters in Quincy, Florida.

After a thorough safety briefing, they were assigned "bird dogs," employees of the local cooperative who acted as guides in the storm-ravaged area. As the storm passed through the cooperative's service area near Tallahassee, nearly all of the cooperative's 55,000 members were without power. Talquin suffered severe damage to its distribution and transmission lines, complicating restoration efforts.

Talquin worked with its transmission provider, Duke Energy, which sustained extensive damage to its transmission infrastructure that supplies multiple Talquin substations.

The region has a lot of trees, which were tossed into lines by the strong storm. Photos from the scene showed tangles of wire, broken poles and trees that have to be cleared before lines can be replaced.

Missouri's assistance efforts are being spearheaded by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. The Jefferson City-based association represents all 47 of Missouri's electric cooperatives.