Response to Hurricane Zeta

Here's a copy of the CEO Letter that was printed in the December 2020 Today in Mississippi magazine that is mailed to all SRE members. It gives a summary of our Hurricane Zeta restoration and rebuilding efforts:

Dear SRE members,
I would like to personally thank each of you for your patience and understanding during Singing River Electric’s recovery efforts following Hurricane Zeta. This late season storm was just another reminder of how the year 2020 has evolved. Each year, our management team reviews the cooperative’s Emergency Preparedness Plan and
this year has successfully exercised the plan on five separate occasions including three spring storms involving tornadoes, Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Zeta.

Following the storm early Thursday morning, Singing River Electric had more than 62,000 of its 75,798 members without power. We were successful in restoring power to 38,000 meters within the first 48 hours. I believe this success is in part due to your cooperation, our careful planning and qualified employees. Prior to the storm, key personnel, SRE crews, and visiting crews were assigned throughout the service area. In addition to our crews, we had visiting crews from 18 electric cooperatives from as far away as Illinois. There were also numerous contract and right-of-way crews that worked along side and in front of line crews to ensure trees were removed to speed restoration. This resulted in more than 500 line workers participating in SRE’s total restoration process.

Some reports have indicated property damages in north Jackson, George and Greene counties to be comparable to, if not worse, than what was experienced in these areas in Hurricane Katrina. Our entire service territory experienced damages. This was not a huge surprise, as the National Weather Service in Mobile confirmed Hurricane Zeta’s center and southeast eye wall tracked inland through our service territory with 70-75 mph winds and gusts registered at 91 mph. The straight-line wind damage was evident with all the whole trees ripped out of the ground, roots and all, and our estimates of nearly 900 broken power poles.

Many of you expressed gratitude following Hurricane Zeta through calls, cards, email and social media comments, and our employees are extremely grateful. Some of you have expressed frustration during the process over not having service when a neighbor had power, and I would like to discuss this.

Line personnel must follow a methodical process in order to restore power. When Singing River Electric experiences damages of this magnitude, power must be restored in stages. Transmission lines and substations are first inspected for damage and repaired before power can be restored to anyone. Next is service to hospitals and three-phase power lines. These lines energize necessities like gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores. Following that, servicemen inspect tap lines and individual distribution lines to homes. They also return to damaged areas to make repairs and restore service.

Current estimates indicate expenses due to Hurricane Zeta will total more than $15 million. This unexpected late year cost will definitely factor into the board of directors’ decision on moving forward with broadband service, and for that reason, they will need additional time to carefully consider a plan to move forward. The results of their decision will be announced in the January 2021 Today in Mississippi magazine.

I again express my gratitude for your understanding during this time of recovery and rebuilding.

-Brian Hughey, General Manager and CEO

2020 SRE Hurricane Zeta statistics:

  • 82% of SRE's members were without power the morning following the storm.
  • Hurricane Zeta's southeast eye wall tracked across all counties served by SRE late on Wednesday, 10/28/2020.
  • The storm was a formidable hurricane even inland, packing winds of 70-75 mph across our service territory with gusts registered at 91 mph.
  • Transmission was lost to all eight SRE George County substations (our 2nd highest county served) until near 8 p.m. the day after the storm hit.
  • SRE experienced nearly 900 broken power poles. The significance of which is that it takes several hours and one to two small crews to replace one broken pole.
  • More than 500 line personnel assisted the restoration and rebuilding efforts.
  • Power was restored by Sunday evening on 11/8 to all who could receive power in nonrecreational areas.
  • There were a tremendous amount of broken and uprooted trees and blocked roadways in SRE's counties served.