How the Storms Went Down & The Lines Came Back Up

If your power was out between April 29 and May 2, you were not alone. Thousands across East Texas and a four state region were affected by the severe and widespread thunderstorms, high velocity winds, hail, flooding, and EF2 tornadoes that wreaked havoc in our region. According to the National Weather Service, that weekend there were a total of 10 tornadoes, including 6 EF1s and 4 EF2s. The EF-2s that hit in and around Lindale carried peak winds of 110-115 mph and those near Hawkins topped out at 120-125 mph. As expected, there was widespread structure damage, mangled debris, and countless uprooted trees. There were also some injuries listed, but thankfully no fatalities.

These storms damaged or destroyed a large portion of WCEC's distribution system and caused over 144 outages that affected 26,328 meters from April 29 through May 2.   But that's not surprising considering the ferocity of the storms, along with the wide-spread flooding. Trees and tree limbs pulled down entire spans of line; winds also stole line and snapped poles like matchsticks, while lightening damaged transformers. And then there were the floodwaters to combat.

As the time-lapse map shows (above right), outages were system wide. But the areas of WCEC's system that had the most damage and required the heaviest construction included Smith, Wood, and Van Zandt Counties. The chart below gives statistics on those as of this counting (tallies are still coming in).  

We called out all of WCEC's line and right-of-way crews, and supplemented repair and reconstruction efforts with 5 contract crews to help speed restoration. But even then, in many areas the going was slow either because of flood waters or streets blocked by trees and debris.

Line crews and right-of-way workers took to flat bottom boats and all-terrain vehicles while damage surveyors took to the skies in helicopters. And the Chief Operating Officer, C.H. Campbelll, along with the Right-of-Way Coordinator, Chuck Baucum, even manned kayaks to survey the scope of damage along a flooded transmission line. This storm system brought out a resourceful bunch of folks to access and repair. And beyond our crews, there were many to help.
Over a mile of transmission line was downed in the Sabine River Bottom that was flooded following the storms. ROW Coordinator Chuck Baucum and COO C.H. Campbell surveyed the damage to WCEC's system via kayaks.
Of the work in the aftermath, Rusty Mask, WCEC's Director of Operations said, "This event was certainly a challenge, but our guys stepped up to the plate and swung for home. They were simply outstanding. We are also so thankful for the great cooperation that we had from both state and county agencies, including TX DOT, various precinct commissioners and their workers, and local fire departments and police agencies. They all helped to direct traffic, clear roads of debris, and aid in countless ways, including giving us reports of damage."
In addition to thanking all of the agencies that played a role in responding, Debbie Robinson, WCEC's General Manager and CEO, extended thanks to all of the members affected saying, "Times like these are certainly challenging and our members understood the level of reconstruction that had to take place to get power back on to everyone. They displayed tremendous patience and support. Additionally, many members extended wonderful kindnesses to our crews that were working so hard. That encouragement was so uplifting."

Getting A Busy Signal When Reporting An Outage??
During storms, like the recent ones that caused thousands of simultaneous outages, it's impossible for us to answer every telephone call.  Even if there were enough lines coming in, we don't have that many employees!  But we do understand the frustration of busy signals and long hold times.  That's why we have two fast and easy solutions to take the busy signal and the frustration out of reporting outages.
High Volume Toll Free Telephone Outage Hotline
One of the quickest ways to DIRECTLY report your outage is to call the outage hotline at 1-866-415-2951. There is no waiting, no muss, and no fuss. This hotline is computerized and can handle almost unlimited simultaneous calls.  When calling, your outage will be recorded immediately, just as if speaking to a person. The outage system "recognizes" members by one of two things: 1. account number or; 2. home phone number listed on the account. So to make sure this works for you, please verify your current phone numbers are on file with us.
Outage Texting
Another easy way to DIRECTLY report an outage is through cell phone texts.  It takes mere seconds, once set up.  First, and critically, make sure your cell phone number is on file with WCEC.  Then to enroll, just text the word "wood" to the number 85700. You'll receive a message to verify the meter location.  Once you reply with the correct options you'll be enrolled. Then you can report outages by texting "Out" to 85700. To receive status updates, send the word "status" to 85700.  The system will also send you a text once the power has been restored.  You can stop receiving text messages at any time by texting "stop" to 85700.  As a tip, save these instructions in your cell phone, so you'll remember what to do. 
Regular Office Telephone
Many people just want to call the office directly to report an outage.  That's understandable.  But the reality is that after 5:30 p.m. and on weekends, there's limited staff available to answer the phones.  And there are also limited phone lines. So, if possible, members should try to use the outage reporting hotline or text their outage report.  In addition to being quick and easy, it frees up lines for those that may need to report an emergency. 
Please know, we do always want to hear from our members.  Taking your personal calls is our pleasure.  But it's also our pleasure to serve you in the very best way we can.  By providing these other handy tools for the high-volume times, we hope to make your outage reporting quick and easy so we can get the trucks rolling to restore your power.

A BIG TALL THANK YOU to all of our members, and especially those near Lindale and in the St. Mary's and Lake Hawkins areas. The patience, encouragement, and kindness shown to us during the recent tornado related outages was nothing short of phenomenal. We also tip our hats to those that brought food and water to the work sites and the eateries that cancelled bills for our crews. You not only fed our bodies, but you fueled our spirits. It took a lot of old fashioned hard work to repair the storm damage. We're grateful for your understanding as you waited for your power to be restored. We know we have the best members in the world - and you proved it!

Safety Tips  

Don't mess around with power lines-even if they're down
Downed power lines can look relatively harmless, but don't be fooled. They can still be energized and carry an electric current strong enough to cause serious injury or possibly death. These tips can help you stay safe around downed lines:
  • If you see a downed power line, move away from the line and anything touching it.
  •  Do not attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with the line by using another object such as a broom or stick. Even normally non-conductive materials like wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity and electrocute you.
  • The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle your feet, keeping them together and on the ground at all times.
  • Do not drive over downed lines.
  • If you are in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed line, stay in the vehicle. Call or honk your horn for help and tell others to stay away from your vehicle.
  • If you must leave your vehicle because it's on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid making contact with the energized vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then shuffle your feet as you move away.
For more safety tips visit our Safety & Consumer Tips
Energy Efficiency Tips 
Use small electric pans, toaster ovens, or convection ovens for small meals rather than your stove or oven. A toaster or convection oven uses one-third to one-half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
For more energy efficiency tips visit our Energy Savings Center.

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