Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 8

TRIAL BY ICE
Lessons learned from 2009 ice storm
speed recovery today

Above: Tracked vehicles like this one owned by Barton County Electric Cooperative were all that could move across the fields.This crew was working on Pemiscot-Dunklin's lines near Marston.
Scarce in 2009, these vehicles are now common at many electric cooperatives in Missouri. Below: Broken lines dangle from one of the few crossarms that survived the ice.
by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

W

hen it comes to weather, we never know what Mother Nature will
send our way. Missouri has suffered through floods, fires, tornadoes, blizzards and ice storms, sometimes in the same day. But
while the weather can be fickle, one thing is certain: Electric cooperatives will do whatever it takes to restore power.
That was the case 10 years ago when the ice storm of 2009 caused widespread devastation across southern Missouri. From Branson to the Bootheel,
electric co-op members experienced something that only the most elderly could
remember - total darkness.
"I remember turning off of Highway 25 to the gravel road where I live," says
Tim Davis, manager of Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative. "I couldn't see
the road it was so dark. Me and my wife, we were raised here. We know where
those roads were at and we still couldn't see them."
When the freezing rain that began Jan. 26 finally stopped and employees
began assessing the damage, veteran linemen could not believe what they were
seeing. Tim, who was operations manager at the time, recalls when the extent
of the disaster struck him.
"When you see a grown lineman in tears, you know it's bad," Tim recalls.
"They were in tears, more than one. I hadn't been outside for a day because I
couldn't leave the radio. I finally got a break and went outside. I had no idea.
It made me sick."
One line between two substations had 80 poles on it. Tim learned that only
one was left standing. Nearly 90 percent of the system was on the ground and
hardly a meter was turning. Power was even off at the office until a generator
loaned by Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative turned the lights on again.
Missouri's electric cooperatives are no strangers to natural disasters. There
have been storms that caused outages for more people. In 1984, 250,000 were
without power in the wake of an ice storm that affected those living south of
Interstate 70.
Comparisons between the ice storm that struck in January 2007 and the
one in 2009 add perspective. In 2007, 120,000 co-op members lost power.
Damage was estimated at $52 million and the
recovery effort prompted what was then the largest repair effort in the history of the state with 80
cooperatives from Missouri and seven other states
sending assistance.
Fewer members, 64,000, lost power in 2009 and
the storm affected only seven systems compared to
15 in 2007. In a strange quirk of fate, the systems
hit in 2009 were all out of harm's way in 2007. The
ice, it seemed, had returned to finish the job it had
started two years earlier.
In terms of sheer destruction, the length of the
outages and the monumental restoration effort

that followed, nothing compares to the ice storm of 2009.
The storm caused more than $200 million in damages to electric co-op lines.
More than 17,000 poles had to be replaced. A total of 3,337 workers - more
than ever before - were sent into the fray. And the three weeks it took to
restore power to the last members set another record.
In past storms, damage to high-voltage transmission lines was minimal.
These lines, which carry large wires, are built to much higher standards. Some
poles measure 3 feet in diameter at the base. But the 2009 storm snapped the
H-shaped transmission structures owned by M&A Electric Power Cooperative
like matchsticks. Across the flat Bootheel, miles of shattered poles stretched to
the horizon. Heavy conductor lay on the ground. Piles of mangled hardware and
broken insulators made the scene look like the aftermath of a battle.
"We had at least one section that was 26 miles long that did not have a
structure standing," says M&A Power Manager Daryl Sorrell. "26 miles without
a standing structure is impossible to comprehend."
M&A employees calculated the weight on each span of line at 10,000 pounds
for a 2-inch thick buildup of ice. But ice as thick as a man's arm accumulated
on these lines. In places where two lines ran close together, the ice was as big
as a volleyball. Each crossarm carried the equivalent of two full-sized SUVs
hanging from them. Like dominoes, the poles snapped under the burden. In an
instant, 90 miles of line came crashing down.
Loss of the transmission lines knocked offline four power plants owned by
Associated Electric Cooperative. It would be an extreme test of the electric
cooperative grid, but power continued to flow to those unaffected by the storm
from plants located elsewhere.
Despite the devastation and the suffering that followed, lessons learned during those dark days from Jan. 26 to Feb. 18 ensured future storms are less of
a problem for members.
SEMO Electric Cooperative - which faced a task equal to building a power
line from St. Louis to Memphis in less than three weeks - began the practice
of staging crews before outages take place, speeding repairs. Linemen now take
trucks home with them so they are ready to roll at a moment's notice.
Pemiscot-Dunklin, which suffered the most damage during the storm, has
increased the strength of its lines. "We shortened
our spans from 300 feet to 275, maybe 250 feet,"
Tim says. "We use bigger class poles. We use
heavy framing. We strengthened our guy wires and
spread them out as far as we can. We've learned
a lot. My staff will sit down the first of fall and go
over precautionary things."
Howell-Oregon Electric in West Plains now
benefits from new equipment they learned about
from contractors brought in to help restore power
in 2009. The contractors used tracked skid steer
loaders, one fitted with an auger to drill holes and
the other with a manipulator arm to move poles



Rural Missouri - January 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2019

Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 7
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 8
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 9
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 10
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 11
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 12
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Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 18
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 19
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 20
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 21
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 22
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 23
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 24
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 25
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 26
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 27
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 28
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 29
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 30
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 31
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 32
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 33
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 34
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 35
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 36
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 37
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - 38
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - January 2019 - Cover4
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