CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

March 20, 2013

Power outage closes 2 schools; some areas still without power

By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times

— With thousands still without power from Monday evening storms, the Cullman County Board of Education was forced to cancel classes at two campuses Tuesday until service is restored.

Good Hope and Cold Springs schools were both closed for the day because of the outage, as crews worked to restore service in those communities.

Repair teams are still working around the clock to get the county back online, though several thousand customers are still in the dark. Cullman Electric Cooperative officials say approximately half of the lingering outages should be restored as of today.

Cullman County schools superintendent Billy Coleman said Good Hope is back online and will reopen today, and Cold Springs should reopen today — though there is a chance lingering power issues could cancel classes again.

“It’s hard to have school if you can’t serve lunch, and without power we can’t operate the lunchroom,” Coleman explained. “With so much of the county without power, we considered canceling all schools, but decided if the school can pick up those kids and provide them a few hot meals and maintain the routine while their parents took care of things at home, or went to work, that’s what we needed to do. We understand it can be hard to get going without power sometimes, but we felt we’d do more good by having most children in class.”

Coleman said he doesn’t anticipate the missed day will have to be made up, since it was not a systemwide closure.

More than 20,000 area residents lost power Monday at the storm’s peak, and co-op spokesperson Brian Lacy said they managed to almost cut that number in half by Tuesday night. But it could still be several days until the entire service area is restored, due to the type of damage caused by the storm.

“There were so many trees down that took out a lot of lines, snapped wires and damaged transformers,” he said. “There is just so much damage when you have straight-line winds up to 60-miles-per-hour come through. With the nature of making these types of repairs, we can’t predict exactly how long it will be.”

The majority of damage is centralized in the southern part of the county around the Bremen, Hanceville and Helican communities, as crews from surrounding counties have sent in teams to assist with the work.

Lacy said Monday’s storm is easily the biggest outage and repair initiative the co-op has faced since the April 2011 storms that decimated the county.

“Some areas are harder to get into and repair work takes more time, but that varies every time we have an event like this,” he said. “You just never know where and how most of the damage is going to turn out.”

The Cullman County Emergency Management Agency didn’t have final wind speed totals as of Tuesday evening, but director Phyllis Little said speeds “easily” exceeded 60-70-miles-per-hour in the area. A team from the National Weather Service was also in Cold Springs Tuesday to investigate potential tornadic activity from the storm. The final report is pending.

The EMA only received one minor injury report from the storm, which was caused when a tree fell on top of an occupied camper trailer.

The Cullman County Red Cross also spent the week responding to storm damage, and helped relocate a handful of residents who were severely affected. The Cullman area didn’t require an emergency shelter, though director Mike Bates spent much of Tuesday in nearby Blount County opening one. The Cullman Red Cross chapter is also in charge of response in Blount and Winston counties.

“If we had needed to open one in Cullman we absolutely would have, but we were able to handle the situations here by placing folks in hotels temporarily,” Bates said. “But we’re also covering Blount County now, and it could be the end of the week until power is restored, so we’re mobilizing now.”



Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.