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REC prepares for storm’s arrival

Hurricane Florence brings the threat of potential power outages in the area once it reaches North Carolina. Roanoke Electric Cooperative, which serves many in the Roanoke-Chowan area, is working diligently to prepare.

“Roanoke Electric Co-op is closely monitoring the path and potential impacts of Hurricane Florence as it develops, preparing to respond quickly and safely should outages occur,” said Lori Everhart who works as Communications Manager for the electric cooperative.

“Line technicians are prepping trucks with all necessary supplies and materials for power outage restoration, system operators who monitor the co-op power system and weather on a daily 24-hour basis, and all other employees—including those on our member-owner care center team—are on high alert and ready to respond to member-owner needs,” she continued.

Everhart explained they coordinate closely with all 26 electric cooperatives across the state as well as the statewide association to work with emergency management agencies. If necessary, they will bring in additional crews and personnel from other unaffected co-ops. Some co-ops have pre-existing mutual assistance agreements while others have already offered aid outside of any agreements.

“We underscore that safety is our first priority: the safety of our member-owners and our crews,” Everhart explained. “Crews can be deployed to restore service only when weather conditions become safe. They are restricted from working on overhead power lines during adverse weather conditions and sustained winds of 35 miles per hour.”

She cautioned that assessing damage and estimating when power could be restored could potentially take 24 hours or longer after the worst of the storm has moved through the area.

With the possibility of prolonged outages, the electric cooperative urged member-owners to prepare ahead of time.

Some preparation tips are as follows:

If you use medical equipment at home that requires electricity, make sure you charge the battery before the storm.

If you or someone you know uses life-support equipment that requires electricity to operate, charge the battery before the storm, identify a location with emergency power capabilities and make plans to go there during a prolonged outage. Contact your local health department or emergency management offices about shelters that can assist you during a prolonged outage. If you have a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital.

Fuel vehicles before the storm as a loss of power could affect gas stations.

Assemble an emergency storm kit to include a battery-powered radio, flash light, first-aid kit, battery-powered clock, extra batteries, and an insulated cooler.

Have a telephone with a cord or an extra charged cell phone to use as a back-up. Cordless telephones won’t work during an outage.

Consider having supplies handy for your propane or charcoal grill. Be sure to grill outdoors in well-ventilated areas for safety.

Protect electronic equipment. Unplug sensitive electronics or plug computers and other sensitive equipment into surge suppressors.

Other emergency tips include having an adequate supply of prescription medicines and necessary infant supplies, developing an evacuation plan, keeping at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water, and securing outdoor items.

“Depending on the severity of the storm, damage to the electric grid infrastructure could be extensive, and power restoration could take several days,” said Everhart. “If people have done the advance preparation we urge and are safe where they are, we ask them to please stay in place and to be patient with us.”

Roanoke Electric members can report power outages by calling 1-800-358-9437 or by texting “OUTAGE” to 352667. To keep updated on the situation, they can also monitor the live outage map at http://outage.roanokeelectric.com/#viewer-menu-parent

The number one priority is safety, Everhart emphasized, followed by restoring power.

“Understand that we must work from the substations out to restore power. There will probably be a tangle of wires, damaged poles, and trees to work through to get from substations to individual taps and services,” she said. “We will work to get repairs made and power restored as quickly as possible.”

Everhart also provided some other general safety tips which include staying away from downed wires, avoiding co-op crews when working, and never entering flooded areas which can conceal downed wires and other hazards.

For people who want to use a generator while the power is out, she cautioned everyone to stay safe by using them properly.

Safety tips for generator use include following the manufacturer’s directions, making sure the generator is properly grounded to prevent electric shock, operating any fuel-powered machines outside (particularly in a well-ventilated and dry area) where deadly carbon monoxide cannot enter the home, not overloading the generator with more appliances than it can handle, not plugging a generator into a household outlet, not refueling a generator while it is running, and turning off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting it down.

“Never connect generators directly into your home’s wiring. The reverse flow of electricity can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker,” she added.

Member-owners can follow Roanoke Electric on social media to remain informed. Updates on shelter information, updated weather forecasts, outage numbers, and safety advisories can be found on Facebook @RoanokeElectric and Twitter @Roanoke_EC and Instagram @Roanoke_ec

Dominion Energy customers in the R-C area can report outages by calling 866-366-4357.