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REC sends aid to Gulf Coast

RICH SQUARE – A two-man team from Roanoke Electric Cooperative in Rich Square left on Tuesday to deliver a truckload of toiletries, pillows, blankets, towels, shoes and more to the employees of sister cooperative, Coast Electric Power Association in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The donated items were purchased by REC employees and matching donations were made by REC.

"This is something all of the employees here wanted to do," said Robert Craig, Right of Way Foreman.

Craig and Aaron Rascoe, equipment operator, delivered the items and were able to return home to help REC prepare for Hurricane Ophelia.

Of CEPA's 300 employees, approximately half of them suffered from total to near total losses from Hurricane Katrina, according to reports.

REC, which provides power to 14,500 members in Bertie, Northampton, Perquimans, Gates, Halifax and Chowan counties, also sent a crew of eight service and linemen to assist CEPA two days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

"That's what the cooperative family spirit is all about," said Curtis Wynn, Executive Vice President and CEO of REC. "Across the nation, our electric cooperatives help one another whenever they are in need."

Line crews from 21 North Carolina cooperatives are assisting with power restoration in Mississippi.

A total of 375 workers were sent on Katrina recovery duty.

The REC crew recently returned and a second crew was slated to replace them, however, relief plans were interrupted by the threat of Ophelia.

"We had to make sure that our service staff is here and in place for our members in northeastern North Carolina," said Wynn.

Hurricanes in other states can put a great strain on the entire infrastructure of utilities services, especially in the southeastern states, as has been the case with Hurricane Katrina.

"The contractors and suppliers that we would rely on to come in and help us when our power lines are down after a hurricane are already diverted to the Gulf Coast," said Wynn.

CEPA alone, which services about 30,000 members, lost 30,000 utility poles, or 750 truckloads.

"They will be using a lot of materials, which means less availability for other states should they suffer from a hurricane," Wynn said. "When something as devastating as Hurricane Katrina happens, it affects operations of utilities services across the nation."

So how does another utility company prepare in the fact of a storm with materials supplies depleted in the southeastern U.S.?

"You put everyone in the company on alert, check and recheck your resources, and wait, ready to deal with whatever happens.

One of our top priorities in a crisis is to get that power back on," Wynn concluded.