On the afternoon of Wednesday, December 15, the entire Midwest Energy service area was hit by a strong wind that brought gusts of up to 104 mph, knocking down trees and poles and disrupting electrical service at close range. of 26,500 clients.
Worse, wind-powered wildfires occurred simultaneously, burning 366,000 acres of farmland and rangelands in Ellis, Rooks, Russell and Osborne counties.
“We can’t recall an event where more than half of our electrical customers lost service on the same day,” said Patrick Parke, CEO of Midwest Energy.
“We’re used to high winds and storms, but not so widespread that blackouts occur in the 26 counties where we provide electrical service,” Parke said.
The entire Midwest Energy team got together; linemen, military, field service representatives, warehouse staff, system operators and other support personnel restored service to all but 4,900 within 24 hours.
Within 48 hours of the event, power was restored to all but 2,000 customers.
As the number of people without electricity dwindled, the number of identified knocked down or burned poles rose to 687 and more help was called in.
Southern Pioneer Electric Co., 4 Rivers Electric Cooperative, Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative and Sedgwick County Electric Cooperatives all sent one or more crews under a mutual aid agreement, while Ward Electric Company and PAR Electric Contractors sent several teams to help with the recovery effort. .
“A week later, we still have over a dozen homes in remote areas without power,” said Fred Taylor, vice president of operations for Midwest Energy.
“We expect all residences to be powered up by Dec. 24. Full system repairs will take much longer,” Taylor said. “We will work with customers in the oilfields to coordinate restoration in these areas. ”
Parke said the damage to the electrical system from this event “will likely be over $ 2.2 million”, far less than the $ 102 million in damage from the massive ice storms that hit much of the city. the service area in 2005 and 2006.
This event is expected to be declared a disaster by FEMA, which will make grants available to cover some costs.
“It was an unprecedented event in terms of the ferocity of the wind and the scale of the area affected,” Parke said. “We are very proud of the way our line teams, customer service representatives and the entire support team have behaved under dangerous circumstances. We are also grateful for the help of other local co-ops, entrepreneurs and emergency responders. “
“We appreciate everyone’s understanding and grace as we focus on the safety of the public and the crew while restoring power.”