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For whatever reason, May always seems to bring storms.
It is unspoken but as the month comes to a close, many of us who have been around a few years silently wonder when the radar will start acting up if it hasn’t already.
This May was no different. The storms that spanned Memorial Day weekend into Tuesday of that week, May 24-26, brought with them high winds, extreme lightning and even some unconfirmed tornadoes. The worst damage and outages impacted the areas around Hondo, Uvalde and Dilley, but we also saw large storms hit the Bruni, Laredo and Rio Grande City areas.
Needless to say, members were glad to see storms end and have the lights come on—and stay on once the lightning subsided. Our crews were also relieved when they got the last member restored and were finally able to take off their muddy boots and get some rest. Many of our linemen worked long hours from Saturday to Tuesday night, with minimal rest.
Here are some quick outage stats from that weekend:
Total Meters Without Power by Area:
Meters Out Over 18 Hours:
Those numbers are not pretty, but that is the reality of the storm damage that our members and crews dealt with. While I know it is not easy to be without power for 18-plus hours as some members were, please know that our crews are always working as quickly as safely possible to restore power. The number of individual locations that must be visited to restore power in storms like these add up. To mitigate those issues and continue restoration work around the clock, we brought in contract crews, and linemen from our Bruni and Rio Grande City offices drove up to help Hondo area crews as they reached work-hour limits.
Safety is a priority, and my biggest concern during large storms is the alertness of our employees working out on the lines.
One bright spot in storms is watching people come together and pitch in. Linemen that weren’t scheduled to be on-call or work asked how they could help. Office staff opened computers and got to work, sorting through outage tickets and helping dispatch crews, a job that is generally handled by someone else on weekends. They also began taking member calls and keeping the public informed on our Facebook page. All on a holiday weekend.
What may have been an even brighter spot is our members. I have said it before, but these outages confirmed it for me: We have some of the best members around. No one likes it when power goes out. We’ve come to depend on electricity so much that we don’t even think about it until it isn’t there—and then it is hard for us to get anything done.
But we had members send us thank-you notes after being without power for more than 24 hours on Memorial Day weekend. Without power for 24 hours, and they were sending us words of thanks! I never cease to be amazed when I see people show that level of kindness and patience. It means so much to our staff taking calls and to the crews working the outages.
The good news is that we have projects in the works that will make future power restoration easier after storms.
This year, part of our business plan involves setting up a dispatch center and adding staff for that center, which would allow us to handle outage calls in-house 24/7, instead of having to use an outside service after-hours and on weekends. Once we evaluate the financial implications of COVID-19 and determine if our budget still allows it, that is something we are pursuing.
In addition, we are one year into a three-year project to replace equipment and meters throughout our system. Currently, meters don’t tell us if you have lost power; it has to be reported. The updated equipment will allow meters to immediately signal to us that they lost power, which will be extremely helpful in outages that are this widespread and equally helpful during restoration work.
There are good things ahead and we can’t thank members enough for their kindness and patience during these events.