CEO’s Message: Ready for Storm Season

June 2021

By Michael S. McWaters, Executive V.P./CEO

If anyone needed a reminder of what a busy hurricane season can look like, they certainly got it in 2020. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracked 30 named storms and 12 that eventually made landfall, wreaking havoc across theSoutheast.

While our own system was fortunate to avoid a direct impact from any of these storms, many of our consumer members know what it’s like to not be so lucky. It’s why we were happy to be able to send crews to help electric cooperatives in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana get back on their feet after Hurricane Sally, Hurricane Delta and Hurricane Zeta swept through their systems.

It’s also why all of us at Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) work hard every day to make sure our system is ready when the next big storm comes our way. Over the last few years, we have made significant improvements that have allowed us to prevent many outages and quickly restore power when they do occur.

In just the last year, we performed more than 4,000 equipment inspections and replaced 530 poles. We also repositioned more than 1,000 lightning resistors to improve reliability. That kind of diligent maintenance helps prepare our system to stand up to powerful storms when they come through.

In past years we have also implemented new equipment upgrades, like sturdier tree wire for extra protection from contact with tree limbs, and relocated lines from heavily forested areas to head off service interruptions before they happen. Those investments continued to pay off in 2020, as we achieved a reliability rate of 99.96%.

Technology like our Advanced Distribution Management System makes it possible to respond to some larger outages without dispatching a crew to restore power by hand, giving them more time to focus on other parts of the system. Meanwhile, automated switches allow SVEC to isolate some outages when they happen and restore power in minutes.

All of these improvements have made our system more resilient in the face of hurricanes. But no amount of preparation can prevent all outages when severe storms hit. That’s why we review our Emergency Response Plan every year and think about new ways to improve it. And if we find ourselves in need of help, we’re always ready to call on our cooperative neighbors for some extra manpower.

It’s just as important for each of our consumer members to take the same care when it comes to preparing for hurricane season. I encourage each of you to look through this hurricane preparation guide and make a plan to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the event of a major storm.

I hope and pray that this coming storm season will see us come through unscathed again. If not, we’ll be ready.