Alabama Power compares Zeta damage to Hurricane Katrina

Updated: Nov. 1, 2020 at 10:42 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama Power has around 5,000 crews on the ground working.

“The cases that we have seen associated with this type of storm are far greater than normal events," Alabama Power Engineering Supervisor David Huddleston said. "As far as the extent of the damage and the number of cases that we have seen, it has been similar to Hurricane Katrina that our system experienced or the April 27th tornados.”

Engineering Supervisor David Huddleston said with damage from Zeta, the restoration process is extensive. He said the damage is widespread and before crews can start working, they have to assess the power lines to see what they are dealing with.

“We are making notes of what needs repairing," Huddleston said. "At the same time, isolating the system so we can get more customers on, while also calling crews out to make the repairs based on what they have seen.”

Huddleston said crews have a system for restoring and certain outages take priority, depending on the power line.

“We will address the hospitals, the emergency services, the public services like wastewater treatment plants and water treatment plants to make sure we can restore power to those first,” Huddleston said. “Then, we work our way out. We pick up the largest amount of customer’s impacted we can and then move out to the prefrail.”

Huddleston said fallen trees can be the biggest roadblock for crews, adding hours to the repair time if limbs are limiting road access or knocking down wires and poles.

“Especially in the inaccessible areas to where we can’t use our mechanized equipment," Huddleston said. “We are having to manually drag those poles in and manually dig the holes and stand them up.”

Huddleston said the time it takes to replace poles can also depend on the ground, with rock or good dirt.

“Instead of just going out and closing a switch to get somebody’s lights back on, we are having to reset poles that were broken front trees falling and the spans of wire that were brought down with those trees as well," Huddleston said. “This cycle continues until we are done, down to the last customer that can take service.”

Alabama Power said crews have replaced more than 250 poles and 800 spans of wire. They estimate to have 95% of customers restored by Tuesday.

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