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Historic outage's aftermath

Source: 
The Sault News

After a horrific combination of freezing rain and ice pounded the U.P. and left thousands of residents out of power, Cloverland Electric Cooperative crews worked diligently in frigid 16-hour shifts to repair and restore electrical lines across 480 locations.

To add insult to injury, even more outages manifested throughout the week as crews were working hard to repair the widespread damage the initial storm caused.

While it is still be calculated, the total cost of this outage is estimated to cost well over $1 million.

"As far as winter storms go, this one topped the list for doing the most damage to our electrical system," said Paul Warner, Cloverland Electric's director of operations in a press release. "This is the worst widespread winter storm damage I have seen in my 28 years at the co-op."

Cloverland had the help of 21 additional mutual aid crews from various locations in Michigan along with nine tree-trimming crews in this critical time.

"The snow and ice build-up from this storm made the restoration efforts much more difficult than most other storms," said Cloverland Electric's Director of Safety Jim Wilson. "The trees continued to hang over the lines in a draped condition that made it very hard to remove."

Social media, in this case, was a gift to those members up to date with the restoration process.

"Knowing members were preserving battery life on mobile devices, the co-op provided a schedule for daily updates so members could plan accordingly," said Cloverland in a press release. "While there were understandably some complaints expressed on Cloverland Electric's Facebook page, the general response was overwhelmingly positive with thousands of comments of praise for line crews."

"Mother Nature has not been very kind to us lately. From Thanksgiving to New Years, we were hit with two systems reeling heavy snow, winds, and ice which is never good in any combination. This storm, unfortunately, broke a record for the most members affected and longest duration," said President and CEO Mike Heise.

In the January/February issue of Cloverland Connections, Heise proposes a plan for reducing outages in the future, "We look to continue along the same path of financial improvement with a focus on long-term reliability. With 45 percent of all outages caused by trees on lines, we have increased our vegetation management budget with a goal of managing nearly 4,000 miles of distribution lines on a seven-year cycle. Also, we will conduct a right-of-way study to determine where we can identify greater efficiencies while controlling the cost of our vegetation management plan."

"Cloverland Electric reminds the public to stay safe in all storm situations by staying clear of downed power lines and reporting them to 1-800-562-4953 or local law enforcement agencies. Members with access to www.cloverland.com and Cloverland Electric's Facebook page can stay informed on updates with major outages. However, the co-op reminds its members not use Facebook or other social media platforms to report outages since they are not connected to its outage management system. The most efficient process for reporting outages is through its SmartHub app or calling Member Services (1-800-562-4953)."

Kewadin Casinos is expressing its gratitude for members of emergency services, law enforcement, Cloverland Electric employees, and assisting power companies and road maintenance crew and their immediate families by providing a free buffet dinner every Saturday night in January to those mentioned. The offer is available from 4 p.m. to close at the Horshoe Bay Restaurant at Kewadin St. Ignace and the DreamCatchers Restaurant at Kewadin Sault Ste. Marie. To those qualified, please bring proper identification with you to the restaurant.

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