Utility providers advance restoration during storm pause

Published 4:02 pm Monday, June 19, 2023

Severe thunderstorms hit south and central Alabama Wednesday and continued ravaging communities through Monday, leaving behind downed trees, debris, and extensive power outages.

Service providers who worked throughout the week and weekend to restore power in Butler, Lowndes, and Crenshaw County communities, met new challenges each morning after every evening’s storm surge.

“We can control a lot of things, but weather isn’t one of them,” said Christi Scruggs, communication director for Pioneer Electric. “We had everybody back on [Sunday] night, but we have taken another significant blow. Lightning, trees and high winds have battered our system once again. We know you’re weary…but we are back at it this morning.”

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Scruggs said the Pioneer crews focused restoration on 2,500 members without electricity Sunday morning. By 9 p.m., all but 328 had been restored, but by evening storms had increased that number to around 2,400. Crews worked through Monday morning, and by 2 p.m., only 417 Pioneer members awaited restoration.

On June 14 at the peak of outages, 79,727 Alabamians were without electricity. Downed trees blocked countless roadways as Emergency Management Agencies (EMA) worked to assess the damage.

“Thankfully no one is hurt,” said Crenshaw County EMA Director Elliot Jones on June 15. “But we have trees down everywhere and thousands of people without power.”

“We have widespread outages,” said Scruggs. “About 80% of members are without power. We are trying to keep Facebook updated with information.”

At 7:30 p.m. on June 14, the tri-county area reported thousands without power – 7,386 in Butler County, 4,788 in Lowndes County, and 5,359 in Crenshaw County. 

Alabama Power representative Michael Jordan said nearly 39,000 of the utility’s customers were without power.

“At this time, there are approximately 38,700 Alabama Power customers without service in central Alabama as a result of severe weather,” Jordan said.  “Alabama Power personnel are actively assessing the extent of damage and working to restore service as it is safe to do so.”

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) reported one death directly related to the storm system.

Jay D. Morgan, 57, of Tyler died of fatal injuries in Lowndes County around 5:20 p.m. Wednesday when the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage he was driving collided head on with a 1996 Nissan Maxima driven by Tyler resident, Bryant L. Lawrence. 52.

“There was a tree in the roadway when the crash occurred,” said ALEA Sergeant Jeremy Burkett. “Morgan was not using a seatbelt at the time of the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene.”

While electric service providers worked around the clock to restore power Thursday, severe thunderstorms and flooding continued surging through the area. 

In Butler County, Emergency Management Agency Director Rosie Till said communities were still monitoring the situation, but no injuries had been reported.

“There are no reports of injuries,” Till said. “Radar is beginning to clear up slightly but there is still a way to go for monitoring purposes. We have not received the ‘all clear’ from [the U.S. National Weather Service in] Mobile.”

More than two thirds of the 5,114 Lowndes County outages had been restored by Thursday afternoon, leaving only 1,838, roughly customers still without power.

“Recovery is a slow process,” said Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Rodney Rudolph. “It’s taking longer than we thought to get power restored. Roadways are beginning to open, but the Highway Department is still out [working.] They are going all over the county.”

Rudolph noted debris remained alongside roads.

“Crews may cut trees blocking roads, but there is still debris on the right of way,” Rudolph said.

Jones said 32% of residents were without electricity during the peak of outages and many sustained damage during the storm.

“Over 100 locations had damage, between debris, power lines, and falling trees,” Elliott said. “There were no fatalities but there was one weather-related injury caused by a motor vehicle accident.”

Till announced the Red Cross had initialized food distribution around 2 p.m. in Greenville Friday and officials were working on a site for the southern portion of the county.

“A Greenville Location for food distribution provided by Greenville McDonald’s is now operating for our community at the Greenville softball complex at 449 Mountainview Drive,” Till said. 

A south Butler County food distribution location opened later in Georgiana, and the Red Cross began serving meals at the Hank Williams Pavilion located at 127 Rose Street in Georgiana around 2:30 p.m.

More than 28,000 Alabamians remained without power at noon Friday, but by 3 p.m., that number had decreased to 17,575. Of those, 700 were in Crenshaw County, 352 were in Lowndes County, and 1,265 Butler County residents remained without electricity.

Till announced Saturday that the First Assembly of God shelter would close Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Red Cross lunch distributions continued, starting at 1:30 p.m. for Georgiana at The Hank Williams Pavillion on Rose Street and at the Lowndes County Fort Deposit Town Park located at 115 Gilmer Hill Road.

Monday afternoon, South Alabama Electric Cooperative had restored power to all but 636 members. Of those, 279 were in Crenshaw County.

Roughly 200 Pioneer members in Lowndes County remained without electricity Monday afternoon. Around 145 Butler County customers and 267 in Crenshaw County were also without electricity going into another storm surge Monday afternoon.

Lowndes County and parts of Butler County entered the evening with a level three risk of severe storms. Crenshaw County’s risk was set at level two.

All three counties expected a respect Tuesday, giving utility providers and respiration crews time to remove debris before storms resumed Wednesday. At the time of publication, area residents faced the possibility of severe storms throughout the remainder of the week.

Residents can monitor weather conditions over the weekend by following the U.S. National Weather Service in Mobile or Birmingham on social media. Citizens can also gain power outage information by visiting www.poweroutage.us

To report power outages or check restoration progress, contact the local power provider or check outage maps at the following websites.