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What We've Learned From 6 Big Storms

In February 2015, our service area saw the worst storm in our history. Curious about how other storms stack up, we’ve researched Jackson EMC’s biggest storms in terms of disrupted electrical service. The graph below shows the number of outages per storm in thousands.

Ice Storm  |  Feb. 16-17, 2015

Outages: 128,185

This mid-February ice storm created outages in all 10 counties we serve. With help from 600 linemen from other EMCs, we replaced 155 broken poles that snapped under the weight of the ice. Power was returned to all of our members within three days.

Ice Storm | Jan. 23, 2000

Outages: 83,106

This storm came without warning. Weather forecasts were encouraging until the storm was underway. Unrelenting freezing rain began to fall across our service area on Saturday afternoon. By the next morning, outage reports were coming in.

Blizzard | March 13, 1993

Outages: 40,000

The “Storm of the Century” hit metro Atlanta on Saturday, leaving nearly 3 feet of snow across north Georgia. Forecasters were sounding ominous warnings of overnight blizzard conditions as a hurricane-like storm churned out of Florida into Georgia. Many people were unprepared as temperatures had been in the 70s just days prior. The majority of members had service restored by Sunday evening. Several crews went on to help snow-battered EMC’s in North West Georgia who remained without power much longer.

Ice Storm | Feb. 6, 1979

Outages: 34,000

It began as soft snowfall, but quickly changed to rain that froze on trees, limbs and powerlines. All of our linemen were called into work, as well as those from other EMCs. Power was restored in 6 days. The winter of 1979 saw three significant outages. “It was a horrible nightmare for all,” said then manager W.H. Booth.

Snow Storm  |  March 1, 2009

Outages: 33,000

Just days after our linemen returned home from assisting Kentucky cooperatives’ winter storm recovery, we were faced with our own. Nine inches of snow followed by pounding rain left nearly all of our Madison County members affected. Line crews had to cut through fallen trees and limbs to get to power poles and trucks were sinking in the saturated ground. After five days in the winter storm’s wake, power was restored.

Ice Storm  |  Dec. 27-29, 1992

Outages: 26,000

An unusual post-Christmas ice storm was isolated almost exclusively to our service territory. After the initial ice storm, thunderstorms, sleet, dense fog and soggy soils made restoration difficult for our crews. This storm attracted little media attention, which made communication with our membership challenging. All members were resorted within 36 hours.

Why is Ice so Damaging?

Trees! Ice is heavy. When water freezes on tree limbs it weighs them down causing them to break, which can fall on power lines, transformers or just put them in the way. If you mix wind and ice, those heavy trees and power lines can fall down completely, or snap power poles under the weight of the ice. A ½ inch of ice can add 500 pounds to powerlines.

Powerlines are built to withstand ice and wind.

Did You Know? Jackson EMC’s overhead distribution lines can tolerate up to 2 inches of ice, or 2,000 pounds.

What we’ve learned:

The way Jackson EMC responds to storms and outages changes after every storm. We learn from each storm and fine-tune our emergency response plan.

1.We have an established emergency response plan that lets us coordinate crews and member communication.

2.Our communications options for members are far greater than they were during the storms of the 90s, both in terms of outage reporting and real-time outage monitoring.

3.New technology helps us isolate the source of an outage, rather than looking for problems on the lines the way we used to.