Wicked Weather Causes Havoc on Walton EMC Electric Grid

A direct lightning strike completely fried this oil circuit recloser on Walton EMC’s power grid, rendering it unrepairable. This device’s function is similar to that of a circuit breaker in your home.

MONROE, Ga. – The data is in, and it’s no wonder that Walton EMC line technicians, dispatchers, customer care representatives and other employees whose job is to restore electric service have been extra busy.

Figures for the months of April, May and June show a 230 percent increase in lightning strikes hitting Walton EMC’s 10-county service area over last year. The same is true for precipitation. Rainfall for the three months totaled 21.43 inches, up from 9.15 inches in 2016.

All this wicked weather caused more than 65,000 outages over the cooperative’s service area during the three-month period.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Shannon Still, Walton EMC control center operations director. “The trees, lightning and wind all caused outages.”

The abundance of lightning damaged or destroyed more than 300 overhead transformers and other devices. Most of the time, equipment struck by lightning is not repairable.

Countless trees toppled into lines over the last few months because of wet soil and wind. “Ninety-nine percent of those have come from outside our right-of-way,” says Still. Walton EMC is only allowed to trim an area 15 feet from the center of its power lines. Many of those fallen trees are the reason 50 broken poles had to be replaced.

Not only have the storms caused trouble with overhead lines; the deluge of water has also caused several outages of underground wiring.

“With the soil being super-saturated, water is getting into underground cable in places that would normally not be affected,” said Still. Compounding the problem in those repairs is the difficulty of getting heavy equipment into wet areas.

Locally-based crews work around the clock to restore electric service to Walton EMC customer-owners. If necessary, crews from any of the cooperative’s offices – located in Monroe, Snellville and Watkinsville – go to any part of the service area to get the lights back on.

Walton EMC is a customer-owned power company that serves 127,000 accounts over its 10-county service area between Atlanta and Athens.

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