Southwestern Power Administration

1, 2, 3 Energize! – SWPA Crews Restore Line to Service in Just 15 Days

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), it was a series of straight-line winds and “macrobursts” that destroyed 70 structures on a transmission line belonging to Federal Power Marketing Agency, Southwestern Power Administration (Southwestern) near the bootheel region of Missouri.

Conditions were fierce during the restoration effort - rain, mud, stormy weather, and even some theft of materials and equipment (later recovered) – but Southwestern’s crews were more than up to the task, mobilizing men, equipment and materials, wrecking out debris and replacing structures to have the line back up and running within just 15 days.

The trouble started on Sunday, May 3, 2020, when a series of severe storms with straight-line winds rolled through southeast Missouri and tripped Southwestern’s 161-kilovolt (kV) Kennett to New Madrid line out of service, damaging two H-Structures. More storms followed Monday evening, May 4, 2020, including a macroburst with 110-mph peak winds, which was the likely culprit in the destruction of nearly 10 miles of transmission structures, electrical conductor, and related equipment.

Crews from Southwestern’s Gore, Jonesboro, and Springfield Field Offices faced muddy conditions as they sought to replace nearly 70 structures destroyed by a “macroburst” featuring 110-mph peak winds.

Since the line was already out of service from Sunday’s storms, it took a few hours for Southwestern maintenance personnel to realize the extent of the additional damage from Monday’s storms. Jonesboro Regional Maintenance Manager Chad Holmes says they found out when Deputy Regional Maintenance Manager Scott Sims and Transmission Line Foreman, Ross Murray began receiving phone calls from landowners and neighboring utilities about downed power lines and transmission structures.

It soon became apparent that the Jonesboro Line-crew was going to need some help. “We had to call out the men!” says Chad Holmes, referring to Southwestern’s other field offices. Holmes says the Springfield crews headed over on Wednesday, and the Gore crews soon followed, arriving in time to start work on Friday, May 8, 2020.

By the following Friday, May 15, 2020, the combined crews had replaced 36 of the 70 damaged structures, but their work was far from done. Dodging rainstorms and muddy conditions, the crews methodically cleared debris and staged materials and equipment along the path of the storm’s damage until, structure by structure, they got them all replaced, with the exception of one structure on the far North end of the damage.

Chad Holmes

Ross Murray

Scott Sims

During downtime, due to rain and storms, necessary repairs were made to equipment and plans were devised to make the most efficient use of the crews.

Holmes explains, “The wrecking crew needs to stay ahead of the construction, and it’s important to stage new poles and other equipment to be ready to install when the construction crews get there- it’s a team effort!.”  

In addition to trouble from site and weather conditions, Southwestern crews also experienced theft of equipment which, with the help of Southwestern security personnel and the Pemiscot County Sheriff’s Department, headquartered in Caruthersville, Missouri, was later recovered.  

“We had to have round-the-clock security on site after that,” says Holmes. “But we are extremely grateful for their help and glad we were able to recover the equipment undamaged.”

Following repair of the last structure on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, the final piece of conductor was clipped into place and the line was re-energized at 2:30 pm.

Holmes says Deputy Regional Maintenance Manager Scott Sims most accurately summed up the project, “Scott said it best - 15 days to mobilize 40+ personnel, equipment, and materials, removing and replacing 70 damaged structures, and straightening 7+ miles of tangled conductor - all in water, mud, and rainy conditions - Outstanding Work!!”

Southwestern Administrator Mike Wech couldn’t agree more, saying “This was a great effort to restore this portion of Southwestern’s bulk power system infrastructure! Well Done!”

Southwestern Construction crews followed in the path of crews responsible for wrecking out debris and crews responsible for staging new equipment, making the restoration of the line a true team effort.