Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative sends crew to assist in hurricane recovery

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:54

    SUSSEX-Putting the sixth cooperative business principle, "cooperation among cooperatives," into action, two line workers from Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative joined with more than 30 linemen and supervisory personnel from seven other Pennsylvania and New Jersey electric cooperatives to help hard-hit Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association (EPA) restore power following devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Columbia, Mississippi-based electric distribution cooperative, which serves nearly 41,000 consumers in parts of 11 counties in the southeastern corner of the state, was virtually destroyed by the storm. Upon arriving in Mississippi on Sunday evening, Sept. 4, the Pennsylvania/New Jersey caravan of 13 bucket trucks, five digger trucks, and four pole trailers, and a pickup with small line material received their first assignment — working in Pearl River Valley EPA's Wiggins District to repair key three-phase lines. "Before leaving, we counseled crews to always keep focused on the task at hand — they were going to witness destruction on a truly apocalyptic scale, one almost too great to describe," said Robert Kolling, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative CEO. "We also provided the crews with a list of items to take along, and reminded them to fuel their vehicles before driving past Jackson — there were very few gas stations operating south of that city." In addition to usual safety concerns connected to a natural disaster, cooperative line personnel are keeping a sharp eye out for poisonous snakes — copperheads and water moccasins are reported thick in some locations. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Mississippi and other central Gulf States during this difficult time," said Kolling. "We are proud to lend assistance to our sister electric cooperatives in this time of great need — we know they would do the same for us. It's the cooperative way." Hurricane Katrina affected all 25 electric distribution cooperatives in Mississippi. At its peak, more than 456,000 electric cooperative-served homes, businesses, farms, and seasonal residences across the state were still without electricity — about 65 percent of all cooperative consumers. Five electric cooperatives, including Pearl River Valley EPA, lost nearly their entire systems, with tens of thousands of poles destroyed. More than 1,200 electric cooperative line workers from 15 states — 616 at Pearl River Valley EPA alone — are assisting 1,500 Mississippi cooperative linemen in the statewide power restoration effort.