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Outages shrink a week after winter storm

Most of the outages caused by last week’s winter storm have been resolved as utility crews continue working to repair the electrical grid.

Monday marked the eighth day for many Central Virginia residents without power, though the situation has improved since last week. In Louisa County, which was hardest hit by the storm and outages, less than 5% of energy customers were without power as of Monday evening, down from nearly 97% a week ago.

Louisa County officials closed down the overnight shelter at Louisa County Middle School on Monday because more residents had power. The shelter had been open since Tuesday. Other localities have either closed or are planning to close their warming stations or shelters set up after the storm to address the needs of residents.

On the first night following the storm, a majority of energy customers in Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson and Albemarle counties were out of power along with nearly half of Charlottesville.

Albemarle County started Monday morning with 143 people out of power, and officials planned to reach out individually to each of those people to check on them and see what they need. County executive Jeff Richardson said by the end of day, either the county or utility company will have talked with those people. Those conversations will inform next steps, such as whether to keep warming stations open, Richardson said.

Two warming stations were open Monday in Albemarle County at the Scottsville and Greenwood community centers.

“We want to finish this storm,” Richardson said. “That we get people back in power, that we get things through the energy providers and that we have a handle that the community is back on stable ground.”

The winter storm dropped between about 5 to 15 inches of wet snow across the region, and that wet snow brought down trees or tree limbs which then took down the power lines. As electrical crews have surveyed the damage, they have found broken poles and cross arms as well as wires and transformers on the ground. Putting the wires back in the air and turning them on has meant rebuilding sections from scratch, officials have said.

For the largest energy providers to the area — Appalachian Power, the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Dominion Energy — getting the lights back on has taken longer than they initially thought.

Dominion Energy’s storm-related outages were largely resolved over the weekend.

By Monday afternoon, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative had 290 active outages affecting 1,724 customers, which were the focus of the repair effort’s final push. At the peak of the storm, more than 98,000 of REC users were out of power but crews had reduced that number to about 6,000 by Sunday evening, according to REC.

In an update Monday evening, REC said some outages that have not yet been assigned to a repair crew could persist into Thursday.

REC said in a news release that crews have identified more than 560 broken poles and replaced more than 330. More than 1,200 lineworkers from REC and across the country have worked to make repairs and restore power.

“To those who are still without power, please know your co-op continues to do everything it possibly can to get your lights and heat back on,” REC spokeswoman Casey Hollins said in a news release. “These outages are not just numbers – they are families and businesses. Crews continue to make major strides each day in repairing the devastating damage, and we have not forgotten you.”

Some of the outstanding outages Monday affected a few people but required a day’s worth of work, REC officials said in a news release.

“Near the Louisa County airport, for instance, an outage affecting just two members will require the replacement of nine poles,” the company said.

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative had about 346 customers out of power Monday evening, most of whom were in Fluvanna or Louisa counties.

In an update Sunday evening, CVEC officials said they’ve seen nearly as much damage as what was caused by the 2012 derecho. They’ve added 75 line construction personnel and 30 workers tasked to clear right of ways, which has put CVEC at 300% of its typically daily manpower in the field.

“Many more accounts were out as a result of this storm which peaked with 28,000 outages whereas [Hurricane Isabel in 2003] had 22,300 and the derecho 15,000,” CVEC officials wrote in the update. “Restoration from Isabel took 8 days and the derecho took 7 days. The January 2022 storm will go down as one of the major storm events in the history of CVEC based on the number of accounts impacted, poles broken and overall damage to CVEC facilities.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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