Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative has dispatched a four-man crew on a mission to aid in restoration efforts for thousands of residents left without power after winter storms blanketed Douglas County earlier this week.
On the afternoon of Feb. 27, the OTEC crew left for Roseburg to help crews from Douglas Electric Cooperative restore power to its service territory after some areas of Douglas County received as much as 18 inches of snow from Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 storms. As of 3 p.m. Feb. 27, more than 93 percent of DEC’s members remain without power, according to the cooperative’s outage map.
“We are thankful to be able to send crews to Roseburg to help get the lights back on,” said Mike Pommarane, OTEC’s director of operations. “We take great pride in our electric cooperative family and are always glad to be able to help fellow members in need.”
Douglas Electric Cooperative isn’t the only utility receiving help from around the state. In addition to DEC, crews from around the state are also currently helping Lane Electric Cooperative in Eugene restore power to approximately 9,000 of its members. Pommarane said the request for help came through a mutual aid agreement with other Oregon cooperatives through the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative network.
“As families struggle without power, we are glad to be able to be on the ground assisting in any way we can,” he said.
Pommarane said the top priority of each local Oregon cooperative, including OTEC, is service to its own member-owners. Before committing resources to mutual aid requests, each co-op ensures it has ample crews available for all local needs, including routine maintenance and emergencies. Since OTEC was not hit as hard by the storms as others, it made it an easy decision to send a crew out to help.
“It’s a perfect example of co-op helping co-op,” he said.
Pommarane said the crew could be in Southwestern Oregon for up to a week before returning.
“When we asked for volunteers for this trip, more than 50 percent of our employees volunteered,” Pommarane said. “That shows how serious our employees took an assignment like this, knowing they were volunteering to be away from their homes, their families for a significant length of time.”
Douglas Electric Cooperative says it restored power to large transmission lines in portions of the system, according to a Feb. 27 press release put out by Todd Munsey, spokesman for the company.
But Douglas Electric can’t say when power will be restored to the people still without it.
Persistently difficult road conditions are the main challenge for crews, whose access to problem areas is limited, in a county with more than 2,000 square miles of rural service area, Munsey said.