published Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

EPB struggles to restore service after storm


by Adam Crisp

Monday’s storms came and went within minutes, but EPB still is reeling from the impact of torrential rain, wind and a third tornado, which was confirmed Wednesday.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Chattanooga Times Free Press EPB Executive Vice President and COO David Wade talks to the media Wednesday outside the EPB Distribution Center in Chattanooga. EPB is closing in on restoring full power to its customers after Monday's storm and tornadoes.

The local electric utility expects to have all power restored today. Wednesday evening, fewer than 1,000 customers still were without service. In all, 61,000 EPB customers were in the dark at some point after the storms.

“These winds caused incredible damage to our electric system,” said David Wade, EPB executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The storm left more damage than many other natural events over the last 20 years or so, he said, including a 1993 blizzard and a 2003 “gustnado” that also left many residents without power.

“On a typical year, we replace about 200 poles that are broken by storms and car accidents,” Wade said. “In the last week, we’ve replaced a half a year’s worth of poles.”

The sheer volume of damage is taxing the 471 EPB linemen who have been working around the clock to restore power, Wade said.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 61,000 customers lost power at some point
  • 1,800 were without power Wednesday afternoon
  • 471 people working on the restoration
  • 1,371 problem locations after the storm
  • 431 problem spots Wednesday

Source: EPB

Workers identified 1,300 areas of damage in the Chattanooga area and still had not visited 200 of those locations as of Wednesday morning, Wade said. They weren’t even sure if they had identified all the homes without power.

Hardest hit was Signal Mountain, which had fewer than 500 customers without power Wednesday afternoon. The Hixson area near Northgate Mall and Red Bank and Moccasin Bend also had fewer than 200 customers without electricity, according to EPB’s website. heck later in the night: http://www.epb.net/outages/

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF1 tornado on Signal Mountain caused the toppled trees and downed power lines that stretched across the top of the mountain during Monday’s storm.

Investigators surveyed the damage Wednesday afternoon and said the tornado had wind speeds of roughly 90 mph and was 50 to 60 yards wide, said Tim Troutman, a warning coordination meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn.

The storm carved a two-mile, west-to-east path of snapped trees and downed power lines before it “dropped” and then re-formed near Red Bank High School. Because of that break, the Weather Service has determined that the funnels were two separate tornadoes, Troutman said.

The Signal Mountain tornado was the third confirmed tornado that spun from Monday’s heavy thunderstorms. The others were recorded in Red Bank and in Marion County.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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