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Teamwork and Community Support Help to Restore Power in Ohio

by on April 13, 2018
AEP crews worked 16-hour days to restore power to all residents after a tornado touched down in Grove City, Ohio, April 3, knocking out power for 8,500 customers.

(Story by Scott Fuller and Shawna Hansen)

AEP crews worked 16-hour days to restore power to all residents after a tornado touched down in Grove City, Ohio, April 3, knocking out power for 8,500 customers. Just one week later, on Tuesday, April 10, roads were reopened to the public and early reviews are calling the restoration an across-the-board success.

“This was a true collaborative effort that got more than a months’ worth of work done in five days,” said Jon Cronin, line manager, AEP Transmission’s lead on the project. “Teamwork and having the full cooperation and support of Grove City police, Jackson Township fire department and community officials helping every step of the way made a big difference.”

The EF1 tornado, with wind speeds of 105 mph, destroyed 25 transmission poles and eight distribution poles. There were no reported injuries, though the damage was significant and initially posed a public safety situation because some people were trapped by downed power lines coming into contact with their cars. Fortunately, damage was largely confined to a three-mile stretch along Hoover and Orders roads.

A team from AEP Ohio, AEP Transmission, contractors and Grove City administration coordinated the recovery. Transmission Project Management, Engineering, Line, Operations and Field Services were involved. Procurement assisted by getting wire expedited from Texas in less than 24 hours.

Power was restored to 6,600 customers within 24 hours. By the next day, another 1,300 were switched to alternate power sources. By Friday, the number of customers without power was reduced to 600 – but for this group, the typical quickest fixes had been exhausted. The standard practice is for line mechanics to wait for transmission poles to be erected and energized before restoring power; however, with the hours ticking by for customers without power, the team set out to find better solutions.

“I’ve been at AEP for 38 years. I’ve been on a lot of these things. But I’ve never seen a group of people come together like this to get something accomplished,” said Larry Adkins, senior lineman, Distribution Construction. “AEP, the support contractors, overhead, underground – my Lord, those groups worked so well together. It was amazing.”

Work was temporarily delayed after workers accidentally hit a gas line on Saturday. Collaborative efforts inspired innovative fixes, including Adkins proposing the idea to bore underground to connect to an energized primary that was only 400 feet away. This uncommon approach allowed power to be restored more quickly to a housing development of about 350 customers and a nearby church. By Saturday, April 7, all but 63 customers had been restored using alternative methods. Roughly 40 customers remained without power on Sunday.

At least seven cars were in the path of the destruction, causing a public safety situation with people trapped inside and approximately 450 homes were damaged in the area. Remarkably, there were no reported injuries.

Part of the success, Adkins said, was having unified job briefings that brought everyone together in one spot. During a typical storm, where outages and damages are widespread, a coordinated effort like this is more challenging. Having everyone at one location allowed groups to work together effectively and encouraged out-of-the-box thinking.

The teamwork and persistence didn’t go unnoticed. Residents raved about the response, both in person and on social media. TV crews were onsite most of the week, and AEP Ohio remained fully transparent by giving regular updates on its restoration progress.

Pastor Dale Benson, of Grove City Nazarene Church (known as The Naz) located on Hoover Road, gathered his leadership team the day after the storms to organize support efforts, “Everyone wanted to help, and one way we could do that was to provide meals for locals who were without power and those who were working to restore power,” he said. City officials set up a coffee and donut station every morning, Jimmy Johns donated 100 subs, teams organized full-course meals, including a Taco Bar served at the church, and City BBQ donated a full meal.

In addition to helping with meals, The Naz and the First Baptist Church of Grove City allowed AEP to use their parking lots as staging areas.

More than 100 community members, many of them teens who were out of school due to the power outage, showed up to help clean up debris in the neighborhoods. The church scheduled additional clean up service events on April 11 and May 19.

Project Manager Dawn Mau said that a job of this magnitude would typically take three to four months, “I’ve done a lot of storm restoration and have never seen the public be so appreciative, cooperative and happy to help. It was so good to see everyone working together,” she said.

Extended outages are never good, but given the seriousness of the event and the challenges it created, the response has been deemed a success. There is optimism that lessons learned, innovative problem-solving, collaborative teamwork and community support may carry over into future storm situations.

  • Incident Commander on this project, Dave Callahan, Emergency Preparedness manager, AEP Distribution spoke to ABC6 on Your Side camera crews, thanking residents for their support.
  • AEP Ohio posted a Thank you Grove City video on their Twitter page stating, “During the past week, we’ve witnessed firsthand the true spirit of a community coming together to help one another in time of great need. Thank you to all who offered support, patience and kindness to our crews and to those affected by the tornado.”

From → News From AEP

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