By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer
Severe storms pushed across parts of several states, spawning tornadoes and high winds that killed at least 18 and left hundreds injured, April 27. Damage was reported in areas served by electric cooperatives, and co-op officials braced for the possibility of more bad weather ahead.
National Weather Service forecasters warned that severe storms could potentially spawn tornadoes, high winds and large hail in parts of the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys, extending from the Great Lakes to the central Gulf states through April 29.“We had about 8,300 outages at the height of Sunday’s storm,” said Tonya Everhart, vice president of marketing and communications for First Electric Cooperative Corp., based in Jacksonville, Ark. “The storm really skirted our lines and our service territory, and we were not hit as hard at Entergy, the investor-owned utility.”
First Electric crews restored power to most affected members within a few hours, and all power was restored by midday, April 28.
At least a half dozen other electric co-ops across Arkansas also reported scattered outages from the massive weather system blamed for at least 16 deaths across the state, primarily caused by a tornado that struck the community of Mayflower.
“At the peak, there were about 10,000 outages on co-op lines in the state,” said Rob Roedel, manager of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. Line crews were able to handle restoration work in their home territories without outside assistance, he said.
Co-op crews were prepared to help cut downed trees along roads and in other areas not served by electric cooperatives, Roedel said. “We’re prepared to assist state and local agencies and other utilities clear debris and assist homeowners.”
Damage in Arkansas occurred along a line running about 150 miles north-northeast of Little Rock. Damage in Oklahoma also was concentrated in the northeastern corner of the state.
One death was reported in the community of Quapaw where a twister toppled 18-wheelers, cars and other vehicles along a stretch of Interstate 40, said Sid Sperry, director of public relations, communications and research for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, adding that the town is served by a small investor-owned utility.
“There was minor damage in the rural area around Quapaw, but it was not significant,” Sperry said. “But in town, a fire station, a number of businesses and several homes were damaged or destroyed.”
Damage on co-op lines in Kansas was also limited.
“Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Girard, reported 20 poles down and about 200 meters out of service,” said Shana Read, director of communications for the Kansas Association of Electric Cooperatives. “They were able to get power restored quickly.”
In Iowa, one person was reported dead after a tornado swept through part of Keokuk County.
Scattered outages affecting a few thousand electric cooperative consumer-members were reported across the state, said Brian Kading, executive vice president and general manager of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.
“No one, to my knowledge, asked for any help from another cooperative,” said Kading. “I’m not aware of any substation damage.”
Tornadoes also reportedly touched down in Nebraska and Missouri.