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Thursday, May 5, 2016

The power's back on

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All power is back on.

According to the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, power has been restored to all of its 35,000 members who were without electricity since the ice storm hit Jan. 26.

When the peak of the outages occurred, only 1,000 members were not affected and still had power.

Three inches of ice covered trees and power lines. When trees and limbs began to snap and pop off, many landed on power lines which downed poles and snapped the lines. NAEC put out a new estimate Feb. 16 of 2,500 broken poles and $14.5 million in damages.

"This weather event was unlike any other we have ever experienced," NAEC CEO Mel Coleman said. "While it was a trying time for both our employees and members, I feel like we did an outstanding job rebuilding a system that took 70 years to build."

The cooperative had estimated during the first few days of the ice storm that people would still be without power anywhere between four to six weeks, but the job ended up taking about three weeks.

According to NAEC, the cooperative had help restoring power from crews and contractors from Georgia to the upper part of Michigan. In all, about 700 people from various contractors across the United States came to the rescue. Volunteers along with about 30 NAEC retired employees came to help, as well. All the crews and contractor, volunteers and retired personnel and current employees totaled about 900 people working non-stop to get everyone back on the power grid.

NAEC will be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be reimbursed for damages the power infrastructure sustained. "NAEC management personnel will be meeting with FEMA and the state of Arkansas next week to discuss reimbursement of up to 87.5 percent of the storm's damages," according to a NAEC press release. "Due to the severity of the damages, the process of reimbursement will take some time to complete."

NAEC said cleanup will start this week (Feb. 16-20) but could last until mid-summer. "Additionally, the public is asked to leave damaged material, including broken poles, as is. The material left on these poles can be reused and the cooperative will eventually collect these items," according to NAEC.

Some members might still be without power for various reasons. Those members who have damaged meter bases and loops will have to hire an electrician to fix them. Once they are fixed, they must call the cooperative to have their power restored. For those who still do not have power, they can call NAEC at 895-3221.

"I could not be more proud of our employees, the members we serve and the graciousness shown by the public in general," Coleman said. "We appreciate everyone's patience and hope that we never have to experience another storm of this magnitude."

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