It may be several more days, possibly into the weekend, before Verdigris Valley Electric has power restored to all of its customers. About 3,500 of the co-op's homes and businesses don't have electric service as of Monday night. That's down from about 12,000. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports the crews face several challenges as they hit the home stretch.
Pulling up and replacing 1,500 broken power poles is no easy task. But, it's the job Verdigris Valley crews have to tackle to get power restored. The damage is widespread and severe.
"Just getting around. We're mostly rural area. A lot of our poles are out in pastures and have to be drug around. It's just a real slow process, and we've had such a massive amount of loss," said VVEC Operations Manager Randy Riddle.
The Co-op, Oklahoma's third largest, has 450 linemen working; another 150 are coming in from out of state Tuesday.
"There are several of our employees here that don't have electric either. They're working here all day to restore the power. A lot of them are linemen and they go home to dark cold, too," said VVEC Operations Manager Randy Riddle.
Many Verdigris Valley Electric customers are upset over their difficulties reporting outages to the utility. The company says its phone system was just overwhelmed by the high volume of calls. The utility already had plans for a new outage response system, but says that system can't be improved until phone lines are upgraded in the Collinsville area.
In addition to the extensive amount of damage caused by the ice storm to poles and transformers, much of Verdigris Valley's challenges in restoring power come from problems caused to a massive high voltage transmission line. A GRDA transmission line that runs from Collinsville to Prue was severely damaged, taking out three of Verdigris Valley's substations.
"It feeds into some substations where other utilities and other cooperatives pull distribution power off of that," said Justin Alberty with the Grand River Dam Authority.
Restoring the GRDA line will help Verdigris Valley restore power to its customers.
"They're dealing with mud and brush problems and just getting some equipment into some very rugged, remote places," said GRDA's Justin Alberty.
The GRDA line may not be completely energized for another five days. Verdigris Valley Electric's new website was supposed to go online January 1st. But, that launch has been stepped up to provide more information for customers.