LOUISA COUNTY, Va (WRIC) — Thousands of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Central Virginia Electric Cooperative members are still without power after the winter storm that happened Monday. Some members are on their sixth day with no heat.
“Every single one of those folks who’s without power, it is a lot and it has been a hardship,” Melissa Gay with CVEC told 8News Sunday.
Louisa resident and Central Virginia Electric Cooperative member Richard Jenkins said higher-up officials weren’t prepared for the winter storm. “I’m not blaming the workers. I’m not even blaming the people behind that desk. I’m blaming the ones higher up because they should’ve planned this ahead of time. They knew this was coming.”
“I mean, literally, there’s people I know right now that’s had to burn their furniture to stay warm. Thank God that I was able to find a kerosene heater. I had to drive all the way to Staunton to pick up a kerosene heater,” Jenkins told 8News in an interview Sunday.
He went on to say that he’s never seen the power outages last as long as this one has.
“The whole years that we’ve been here with all the other snowstorms, ice storms, that arctic blast we had. We never lost nothing, no power,” he said.
Jenkins said there wasn’t enough preventative maintenance being done before Monday’s storm walloped areas like the ones served by Rappahannock and Central Virginia Electric Cooperatives.
“Trees are growing up around the power lines. I’ve got an oak tree right now that I have been begging them to cut down,” he explained.
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative CEO John Hewa interviewed with 8News Sunday, saying the cooperative started with 98,000 power outages and a foot of snow. Hewa said they had to bring in more than a thousand workers from 12 states states to help.
Hewa said REC had done enough preventative maintenance to prepare for the storm. He said large pine trees that snapped were a big part of what crews needed to clean up this week because thousands fell and took power conductors with them.
Hewa said REC has spent $12 to $13 million dollars per year on preventative maintenance keeping trees cut, but adds that it’s a challenge to do so.
Melissa Gay with CVEC said CVEC was ‘absolutely’ prepared for the winter storm.
“We’ve invested in the right-of-way, the vegetation management, the very aggressive inspection of poles to make sure that they’re healthy. We’ve used drones. We’ve used manpower,” she said.
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative representatives told 8News some people may feel frustrated because their neighbors are getting power back, but they said it has to do with how electric circuits are built.
“They also may feel a little anxious about that because they can see literally lights around them but just the nature of how the electricity goes,” Melissa Gay with CVEC said. “And, so there could be three houses in the center there and the work that’s necessary to restore those three houses could take four hours. It could take eight hours if it’s a pole replacement.”
Crews fix damage in the areas that electricity is delivered from first, allowing them to get power back on as efficiently as possible. Typically, where there are more densely populated areas is also where circuit lines, main lines and substations are, according to REC spokesperson Casey Hollins.
Hollins said those areas with main power lines, circuit lines and substations is where crews need to work first to fix outages there before they can move on to smaller, more rural areas.
REC CEO John Hewa agreed, saying main electric substations have to be re-energized first.
“I realize that if I’m speaking this evening to that member that’s maybe in a smaller scale outage, they may feel as if they’re forgotten about. I can assure you, that we haven’t, but we had to focus on our transmission network first, getting our substations energized,” he explained.
Hewa expects most Rappahannock Electric members will have power back by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative crews will be working again Monday to get power back to a little over 1,000 members still in the dark as of Sunday night.