Crews face difficult task in remote parts of county

Published 7:34 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2021

4,700 of 5,700 Buckeye Rural co-op members without power

Monday night’s ice storm was the most severe of its type to hit the region since 2003.

While crews from AEP have been working in areas close to the river to restore service, in the more remote parts of the county, Buckeye Rural Electric faces a bigger challenge.

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Kent Eldridge, vice president of member services for Buckeye Rural, spoke of the work crews are doing.

“Basically, they walk out the lines in the remote locations,” he said, adding that many are hard to access. He said, in cases of broken poles, crews are using ATVs and track hoes to reach the lines.

Eldridge said that the most common cause of damage is from tall trees, outside of the right of way, falling onto the lines.

He said repairs in these situations is dangerous work, with trees hanging over roadways, suspended only by the lines. Work must be done carefully to avoid them snapping back.

Eldridge said Buckeye Rural has 5,700 members in Lawrence County, with about 4,700 without service on Wednesday evening. He said, as of now, he knew of at least 20 broken poles to be repaired.

“We were just getting the first one cleared up,” he said of last week’s ice storm. He said out of the four counties in the service area, Lawrence County was hit most severely.

As of now, he said he could not get an estimate of when service would be restored to all customers.

He said they have called in 24 additional crews and that about 75 people are working on the problem.

“They’re going in 16-hour shifts,” he said. “It’s unbelievable some of the stuff you see when you get out there. It looks like a war zone.”

Eldridge said he has been impressed with Lawrence County’s response to the disaster and has been taking part in daily Zoom meetings with County Engineer Patrick Leighty, Lawrence County EMS and the Lawrence County Commission.

“They’ve really been on top of this,” he said.

He said he is also thankful for the feedback they have received from county residents, who have left appreciative comments on their Facebook page.

He said they are doing everything they can, are concerned for members and look forward to completing restoration safely, without incident.

“Hopefully, we can get everyone back on soon,” he said. “And the attitude of these linemen is great. They just want to get out there and get to work.”