Under heavy criticism by members that are saying they’ve been left in the dark too long, Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative officials are promising a phone system upgrade and are now speaking to specific areas in Rogers County that continue to be without power this morning.
Lack of communication from VVEC, complaints that residents are not seeing trucks in their area, or that there are no poles visibly down in neighborhoods still without power are among issues cited as causing the most concern to those served by the member-owned rural cooperative.
“We’ve got additional crews in this morning,” said VVEC spokesperson Kathy Calico early Tuesday. “We’re hoping to get more specific reports on the areas they’re working and possibe dates for restoration of service after these crews are all assigned. We want the subdivisions in Rogers County that we’ve been getting calls on to know they have not been forgotten.”
Calico has communicated with the Progress regularly in an attempt to provide information to members who haven’t been able to get through on the phone lines. She said VVEC understands much of members’ frustration stems a lack of information and an inability to talk to a VVEC service representative about outages.
The rural cooperative services a five-county area and experienced what officials describe as a devastating amount of storm damage to the electric delivery system, including a downed feeder line from Grand River Dam Authority.
“GRDA’s feeder 13 that runs from Collinsville to Prue took a lot of damage. That is a transmission source for Verdigris Valley Electric and that line is a power supply to feed a lot of Verdigris Valley meters,” said Justin Alberty, GRDA spokesman. “They continue to make progress on it. They anticipate energizing part of it today, and getting a lot of poles up to energize the rest of it by the end of this week. We lost about 55 structures on this.”
Alberty said he did not know which specific VVEC meters are supplied through GRDA’s transmission line.
Regardless of the cause, the loss of power to thousands of Rogers County homes and businesses has resulted in an unprecedented number of phone calls to the cooperative’s single call line.
“It was already in next year’s work schedule to upgrade the phone system,” said Randy Riddle, manager of operations for VVEC. “But the schedule has been accelerated. It’s going to be upgraded as soon as we can get it done now.”
Calico said VVEC is trying to answer phone calls.
“We have at least 20 people here to answer calls,” said Calico. “There are eight lines. On those lines an employee will pick up immediately and that line is freed up once it answers. We have the employees there picking up the calls.”
The high volume of incoming calls answered found many getting only a busy signal as they attempted to report outages or ask questions about restoration times.
“The issue is really that no matter how many lines we had, the call volume that is coming in means a number of people will get a busy signal,” said Calico.
Calico said the cooperative is also working to upgrade their Web site which was being reconstructed when the storm hit. She said many members have requested the option of logging in to report outages since they have access to the Web at work even though they are without power at home.
“That is on now and that is an option,” said Calico. “We got the Web site up Sunday evening.”
TIAWAH, KEETONVILLE, SEQUOYAH
Residents in Tiawah, Keetonville, and several subdivisions northeast of Claremore in the Sequoyah area were still without power Monday morning.
Riddle said that Keetonville still has some problems and that progress is being made in Tiawah. Crews are in both locations.
“In the Tiawah area we have poles down that are feeding it,” said Riddle. “We have part of Tiawah on. Crews are there now setting poles (as of Monday morning). The majority of the Tiawah area should be back on tonight (Monday evening).”
Riddle said that damage to lines and poles is not always evident in the immediate area.
“Just because they don’t see poles down in their area doesn’t mean there aren’t poles down that are causing interruptions to the lines,” said Riddle. “In some cases the substations are maybe 4-5 miles away. There are a lot of instances where poles could be down a distance away from their place.”
Housing editions like Fox Run and Northlake, located northeast of Claremore in the Sequoyah area, were still without power Monday.
“We’re working in several subdivisions now. There are spotty poles down, anchors pulled,” said Riddle. “Even though a pole is not broken, if an anchor has gotten pulled up, it sags the line down, they touch together, and we have to get equipment in there to set the anchors down and pull the lines up tight so we can energize those areas.”
“It’s hard to say on each individual addition when power will be restored, but the majority of it should be on by Tuesday evening,” Riddle said.
Riddle wanted to assure members that the cooperative is aware of all of the outages now and will be addressing each and every problem.
“Even if the members are having problems getting in on the phones because of the jammed phone lines, we do know they are out of service, and they will be restored even if they haven’t made contact with somebody here.”
“We understand that a lot of members do not see crews or poles down, but we are aware of their outages,” said Calico.