Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives

Iowa’s electric cooperatives work together to restore power after destructive derecho

August 20, 2020

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On Monday, Aug. 10, a devastating derecho storm with winds nearing 140 miles per hour in some places carved a path of unprecedented destruction throughout central and east central Iowa. Immediately after the storm, Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives reported outages to more than 58,000 homes and businesses. Broken trees and limbs along with other windswept debris caused extensive damage to electric transmission and distribution systems throughout several counties. Three electric cooperatives reported at least 90% of their systems were offline, which speaks to the powerful magnitude of the derecho.

Power was restored to most meters within a week, and crews closed in on the remaining outages by Tuesday, August 18.

Early estimates from Iowa’s electric co-ops indicate as least 2,000 broken power poles and hundreds of miles of damaged power lines in need of repair or replacement. The following nine electric cooperatives were hit hardest by the derecho and requested mutual aid support from neighboring cooperatives:

  • Consumers Energy, main office in Marshalltown
  • Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO), main offices in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids
  • East-Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative, main office in Urbana
  • Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative, main office in Wilton
  • Grundy County Rural Electric Cooperative, main office in Grundy Center
  • Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative, main office in Marion
  • Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative, main office in Anamosa
  • Midland Power Cooperative, main office in Jefferson
  • T.I.P. Rural Electric Cooperative, main office in Brooklyn

 

The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC) immediately helped organize aid and support for the distribution electric co-ops requesting assistance. Almost 200 electric co-op linemen along with vehicles and equipment were deployed to the hardest hit areas for mutual aid. “Because of the cooperative business structure, we were able to quickly deploy crews to areas without power,” says Scott Meinecke, director of safety and loss control for IAEC. “All of Iowa’s electric cooperatives offered mutual aid to those in need. Electric cooperatives from Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin also helped with the massive restoration effort.” Additionally, four distribution co-ops extended aid to Alliant Energy: Farmers Electric Cooperative (Greenfield), Harrison County REC, Prairie Energy Cooperative and Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative.

“Nothing showcases the power of local co-op ownership and our concern for community as powerfully as working together to restore power to our member-owners,” remarked Chuck Soderberg, IAEC executive vice president and general manager. “Co-ops are accountable and responsive to the members they serve, and this storm response reinforces those priorities.”

Soderberg adds, “On behalf of Iowa’s electric cooperatives, we express sincere gratitude to the mutual aid crews and those who provided meals and additional support to co-op staff following the storm. Local community support and encouragement means a lot to the linemen and co-op staff, some of whom were dealing with property damage and power outages at their own homes while working tirelessly for their members.”

In the weeks ahead, crews will be out strengthening the repairs that were made. We remind motorists to obey Iowa law by moving over or slowing down (preferably both) when approaching utility vehicles on the side of the road. Please give lineworkers the room they need to work safely.

We also warn Iowans to be cautious of suspicious calls, emails and other utility scams. This kind of activity often picks up following severe storms as scammers and imposters try to take advantage of the situation and confusion. Contact your local electric co-op directly to verify a suspicious communication.

As homeowners make repairs to the electric system on their side of the meter, we encourage them to use licensed and qualified electricians. Before digging or excavating on your property, make sure to contact Iowa One Call by calling 811 or visiting IowaOneCall.com so underground utilities can be properly located and marked. 

Photo credit: Midland Power Cooperative

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For More Information:

For more information:
Erin Campbell, IAEC Director of Communications

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