Texas Electric Co-ops Grapple with Flooding in Harvey’s Wake

As Tropical Storm Harvey bears down on Louisiana, Texas electric cooperatives are reporting progress in reducing outages, although they face ongoing challenges as historic flooding continues to slow restoration efforts. Estimates indicate more than 300,000 Texans lost power over the weekend, including 55,000 co-op members in Southeast and South Central Texas.

Similar to Hurricane Matthew’s long-felt aftermath for North Carolina electric co-ops, flooding has been a major issue for Texas co-ops. Record rainfall levels have fallen on ground already saturated from an unusually wet summer and spring.

“I can tell you that trees are falling – I wouldn’t say quite like dominos, but almost,” said Sam Houston Electric Cooperative Chief Communications Officer Keith Stapleton. “Trees are falling, and when they fall they take down power lines.”

Victoria Electric Cooperative’s territory was the hardest hit, where a peak of 22,000 members were without power. As of late afternoon yesterday, the co-op reported it had 3,886 meters back online and had restored a key substation.

A Victoria Electric Cooperative crew at work amid flood waters.

Anne Harvey, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives’ director of member relations and communications, owns a home in Rockport, Texas, which took a direct hit when Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night. In an article on electric.coop, she describes returning home after a mandatory evacuation.

“As we headed back home we saw the first convoy of bucket trucks heading into town to remove the broken poles and sagging strands of wire from the side streets and literally energize the community,” Harvey wrote. “And I was so proud, because I knew that my co-op friends across the country had helped make this possible. Believe me when I say that what co-ops do during natural disasters is truly powerful, and from the bottom of my heart I thank all of the members that have released their contract crews and are providing mutual aid to the Texas Coastal Bend.”

More information on co-op restoration efforts is available from electric.coop. A photo slideshow of those efforts is also available online.