REC suffers #036;2.5 million in damages

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 13, 2003

RICH SQUARE – Under some circumstances, it’s not always pleasurable being number one.

That’s the ranking of Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC) in regards to the dollar amount of damages suffered by the locally based electrical provider in the wake of Hurricane Isabel.

According to figures provided to the North Carolina Electric Co-ops by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), REC sustained the highest bill – a total of $2.5 million – among those systems affected by the Sept. 18 storm.

&uot;This hurricane made a significant impact on our electric cooperative,&uot; said Marshall Cherry, REC’s Vice-President of Member Services and Marketing. &uot;We are in the process of seeking financial relief from FEMA as well as from other sources of revenue.&uot;

Cherry noted that REC was aided by FEMA on the heels of Hurricane Floyd back in 1999.

Of the 27 electric co-ops that serve North Carolina, 17 suffered significant damage from Hurricane Isabel. Four co-ops – REC, Albemarle Electric Membership (based in the town of Hertford), Cape Hatteras Electric (Buxton) and Tideland EMC (Pantego) – accounted for a total of $6.7 million in damages. That dollar amount represents more than 60 percent of all damages statewide.

REC, which serves 14,500 consumers in parts of Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Perquimans counties, suffered damages along its 2,066-mile system.

Isabel turned out to be the worst weather event in REC’s 60-plus-year history. The storm knocked out REC’s entire system and broke more than 350 power poles.

&uot;This was the costliest storm we’ve ever experienced here at Roanoke Electric,&uot; noted Cherry. &uot;We would have to go back to the ice storm of 1989 to find another weather event that had such a widespread impact on our system.&uot;

Despite that destruction, REC crews – aided by other power companies from unaffected areas of the state as well as out-of-state assistance – were able to have the majority of their system operational by Sept. 27.

&uot;Everything that was restorable was back on line by that date,&uot; stated Cherry. &uot;We still had a few residences that were waiting for electricians to repair the wiring inside those homes before we could energize those wires.&uot;

All totaled, REC crews logged 5,500 hours making repairs in the days following the storm. Those working behind the scenes contributed more than 2,500 hours to the repair process.

Cherry said REC accountants were still totaling the man-hours that were put in by the service crews from other areas of North Carolina and the southeastern United States.

&uot;On a normal day, we have about 20-to-25 REC employees working out in the field,&uot; admitted Cherry. &uot;In the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel, that workforce grew to nearly 400. Without that assistance, repair work to our system would have taken several months.&uot;

Meanwhile, Albemarle Electric saw the storm knock its 1,149-mile system off-line. Following an estimated $2.1 million in repairs, the system was back up and running to its 10,800 consumers in parts of Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.

With one of the largest memberships (21,104 consumers) in the eastern part of the state, Tideland EMC was hit with $1.3 million in damages. Its 1,142 miles of power lines – covering parts of Beaufort, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Washington counties – suffered the impact of Isabel’s high winds.

Serving 6,637 consumers along the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras Co-op suffered $818,000 in damages.