Storms & Outages
Storms are an act of nature that are not unfamiliar to any of us. Being a rural electric cooperative, these storms have the ability to cause major power outages in a matter of just a few minutes. The reason these storms cause us more damage than that of our neighboring utility is due to the miles of powerlines that are not on the right of way of the roads. You can be sure that when storms hit and you are out of electricity, the employees of Tombigbee Electric are doing everything possible to restore power to you as quickly and as safely as possible.
What Happens During an Outage
To understand the process that takes place when restoring power after an outage, you must first understand where the electricity comes from and how your home is energized.
Approximately 95% of the electricity in this area is generated from the burning of coal to produce steam. The steam is pushed across a turbine that is connected to a generator. As the generator spins, a magnetic field is created which creates a current. From the generator, the voltage on the power is increased with a step up transformer so that the electricity can flow over a long distance. It is then carried over transmission lines to the substations. Inside the substations are step down transformers which reduces the voltage on the line, because the distance in which the electricity is going to flow is much shorter. From the transformers located in the substations, the electricity is carried over distribution lines to another step down transformer located at your home or business.
Tombigbee Electric receives its power from Alabama Power generating resources that are transmitted over Southern Company transmission lines. Once the electricity reaches our six substations, we are then responsible for distributing and maintaining electricity through our distribution lines to you.
In the event of outages due to storms, the electricity has to be restored in the same way that it is distributed. If the generation plants are damaged, as they were in April of 2011, that problem has to be corrected first. If transmission lines that feed our substations are damaged, there will not be electricity to our substations which will cause our members to be out of electricity. While it is you, Tombigbee’s members that are affected, we have to let our supplier correct these issues.We understand that everyone’s biggest question during an outage is when will the power be restored? It is so difficult to answer that question because it depends on how many problems there are between the substations and where you live. Even though it seems like the problem with the electricity at your home may be due to the line being down near you, there could be several more damaged areas between where you live and the substation. If we do not repair the lines from the direction in which the electricity is flowing, we really aren’t repairing the problem.
After storms, there are a lot of lines broken and trees and limbs on the lines causing outages due to open or short circuits. We have to begin assessing and correcting problems at the substation and work our way out the feeders eventually leading us to your home. When you call us to let us know that there is a tree on the line at your house, this is entered into a work order and put into our outage management software. This software assists us in keeping up with these situations and as we work our way down the feeder lines, our linemen know where to go to fix the problems.
Another question or statement that is often made is “I don’t see anyone working in this area.” We have over 2,000 miles of line covering Marion, Lamar, and part of Fayette counties. Our lines run through the woods, through fields, and down the highways. We have to correct all of the problems on the line leading to your house so that when we get to you and fix the problem there, your lights will come back on.
A third question that we are often asked is, how are outages prioritized? We use our Outage Management Software to analyze the number of people that are affected by each problem. We must also send linemen to assess the damages. Know that every member is important to us and our entire team is making every effort to get everyone’s lights back on as quickly as possible.
We encourage you to call or text us to report your outage so we can be sure that everyone’s electricity is restored during the restoration process. We are continuing to work on other options for reporting and inquiring on outages and ask you for your patience during outages. We understand that without electricity, life can be difficult and we would like to assure you that we will do everything humanly possible to get the lights back on as quickly as possible.