Crews rebuild after another around of tornadoes sweeps through OEC’s service area
Multiple tornadoes swept through OEC’s service area April 19, destroying hundreds of poles and countless structures in the communities of Cole, Washington, Slaughterville, Etowah, Bethel Acres, Pink and Shawnee. The National Weather Service reported a total of 18 tornadoes that evening, which meant long days of power and broadband restoration for OEC crews.
While many members faced a long road to rebuilding, OEC and OEC Fiber crews worked through the weekend and into the following week to rebuild infrastructure and restore power and broadband services to the thousands of members affected by the storms.
“The storms initially knocked out power to 16,000 OEC members on Wednesday night,” said Marty Hayes, vice president of operations. “Crews worked through the weekend and into the following week to rebuild over 200 poles and nine miles of electric and fiber lines that were destroyed.”
While uprooted trees and debris slowed progress, OEC, OEC Fiber and contractor crews continued working diligently until power and internet services were restored for all members.
“During the storm, about 7,500 OEC Fiber subscribers temporarily lost service,” said Senior Manager of Outside Plant & Fiber Technicians Joe Torres. “Fortunately, we were able to reroute and reconnect most members quickly.”
The addition of fiber strands to OEC’s electric poles led to a progressive system-wide upgrade in infrastructure over the last five years. While this strengthened the electric system, it’s hard to combat the effects of EF-3 and EF-2 tornadoes.
“Our hearts are with those who lost homes or worse, family members, during these storms,” said CEO Patrick Grace. “I’m proud of our crews who worked as quickly and safely as possible, spending long days away from their families, until all of our members had power restored.”
How we can help
If you, a neighbor, family member or friend experienced damage as a result of the tornadoes, our Operation Round Up program can help. Each month, tens of thousands of OEC members round up their electric bills. The OEC Foundation board of directors meets periodically to review applications and award grants. Anyone — OEC members and non-members that reside within our seven-county service area — may visit okcoop.org/ORU to submit an application.
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