East Texas electric cooperatives helping each other restore power in service areas

The restoration process gained momentum from neighbor electric cooperatives coming to aid.
Hundreds of linemen from across East Texas are working to restore power.
Hundreds of linemen from across East Texas are working to restore power.(Kelby Koehler)
Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 9:37 PM CST
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KIRBYVILLE, Texas (KTRE) - Many East Texans remain without power Tuesday night after last week’s winter storm, but the restoration process has gained momentum from neighboring electric cooperatives coming to aid.

“I mean, I know it’s a lot of work, but it makes you feel good,” Rusk County Electric Senior Serviceman Mark Prior said. “A lot of people have been without lights a long time down there, and it just makes you feel good to get power.”

Prior said he arrived home Tuesday for the first time since last Thursday. He and some coworkers assisted with the power restoration efforts in Shelby County, specifically the Huxley area, working 16 hours a day.

“It was a mess down there,” Prior said. “Roads were pretty slick when we got there so it was hard getting places. It was tree limbs, mainly, everywhere fallen; had all the lines torn down and several poles.”

After taking care of their own customers, linemen with Rusk County Electric, Jasper-Newton Electric, Upshur County Rural Electric, Wood County Electric and more assisted in restoring power in the Houston County Electric and Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative service areas. They say with statewide cooperatives, one of their guiding principles is to assist one another when there is a need.

“It is an incredible feeling,” Houston County Electric Co-Op Kathi Calvert said. “I once said after a major event, it’s like winning the Super Bowl basically with us for our industry.”

That’s how Calvert describes the system being full restored.

“They are willing to leave their families and sacrifice for others that they don’t even know,” Calvert said. “It takes a lot of heart, courage and strength to do what they do day in and day out. We are very grateful and blessed by what they do.”

Brittney Ford at Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative said their terrain has made it difficult to repair outages, but progress is being made with their crew and help from others.

“Without their help, we would have been much slower with getting the power back on,” Ford said. “Much of this work is being done by foot. It takes a lot of manpower and hours to get it done, so we are very thankful for our neighboring co-ops that helped us.”

Joey Davis with Jasper-Newton Electric said after restoring power in their area, 17 linemen volunteered to assist other areas.

“These guys, they want to go out and help people,” Davis said. “These are our neighbors, and they work together. It doesn’t matter if it’s Deep East Electric or wherever it may be. It’s just people trying to help people and having a human effect there for one another.”

Prior said though he was able to come home, several of his coworkers are still there to assist. They say the support they’ve received is overwhelming.

“In a restaurant we were eating out down there, after we got the power on to it, there were different folks every time we would go in there, buy our supper or whatever, just appreciative,” Prior said. “It makes you feel good to get that on and everything.”

With the help of neighboring cooperatives, Houston County Electric Co-Op is reporting full restoration. Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative reports 2,233 remain in their service area. More than 22,000 were without power last week in that area.

Here are the outages reported by Deep East Texas Electric as of Tuesday morning:

Nacogdoches County: 406

Panola County: 33

Sabine County: 3

San Augustine County: 76

Shelby County: 1,713

All are expected to be restored by Friday.

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