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Six Missouri hometown utility crews restore power after Hurricane Laura

Thursday, September 10, 2020  
Posted by: mpuaonline
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On Aug. 25, as Hurricane Laura approached Louisiana’s Gulf coast, preparedness coordinators at Alexandria, Louisiana felt electric outages were inevitable and called for assistance from MPUA’s mutual aid network. The same day, hometown utility crews from Hannibal, Harrisonville, Higginsville and Macon rolled for central Louisiana to prepare for anticipated damage to the city’s electric system.


The crews were already on the scene in Alexandria on Aug. 27 as the hurricane roared through the city Widespread destruction to transmission and distribution lines left the city’s 25,500 residents almost completely without power. Additional crews from Nixa and Rolla headed to Alexandria that day to join the crews already on the scene.


In all, the combined response from the six Missouri hometown utilities involved 24 lineworkers, equipped with bucket trucks, digger/derrick trucks, and other linework vehicles & machines.


MPUA asked Bryce Butner, a Lineman Supervisor for Macon Municipal Utilities during the effort, to describe the scene as work began. “It’s a little hard to describe how widespread the destruction really is,” said Butner. “Every storm is a little different, but due to high winds toppled trees were everywhere. Many people there said they hadn’t seen that level of destruction after living in Alexandria for their whole lives.” Butner has seen similar scenes before, though. During his 15 years working for Macon Municipal Utilities, he has been a veteran of many past mutual aid recovery projects – after Missouri’s own tornados and ice storms, and for past hurricane recoveries in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


“Our crew worked with Hannibal, making up one large crew. On mutual aid responses, working on a system different from your own, you learn techniques and ways of doing things to improve your infrastructure, "said Butner. "You also become really aware of the importance of tree trimming programs."

One of the biggest lessons learned is how municipal utility lineworkers are key to an effective  response. "They have experience in troubleshooting distribution and secondary lines, plus working with customers, while contractors primarily have experience in building new line”, Butner said.

A week after the storm had struck, after 10 days on-site, the Missouri hometown utility crews were released on Sept. 3 and traveled home the next day.


The mutual aid response was coordinated through MPUA’s mutual aid network, which includes 84 member utilities. When there is a widespread damage to an electric system, the process is in place for communities to easily help each other quickly. Assisting hometown utilities are reimbursed by the communities receiving assistance.


In 2020, MPUA member utilities in the mutual aid network have provided recovery help after a tornado struck Jonesboro, Arkansas, and after Missouri storms and other outages happened at Jackson, Vandalia, Lebanon, Willow Springs and Thayer.


Nationally, mutual aid agreements like MPUA’s are linked through the American Public Power Association to more than 2,000 public power systems and rural electric cooperatives, so they can help each other in times of need.



[Photo: Macon Municipal Utilities' Bryce Butner (in bucket) and Anthony Witt (operating digger/derrick) work to reset a broken utility pole after Hurricane Laura]


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