Achieving the Impossible through the Cooperative Spirit
Cooperation Among Cooperatives reenergized communities after Hurricane FlorenceBy Jake Joplin
Before, during and after Hurricane Florence took her toll on Eastern North Carolina, we were reminded — perhaps more deeply than ever — of the value of one of our founding principles, “Cooperation among Cooperatives.”
The hurricane caused damage to a majority of our members’ homes and caused a system-wide power outage, which affected each of our 33,000 members — a part of the more than 300,000 co-op outages state-wide. With a force of more than 400 linemen, including hundreds from other North Carolina electric cooperatives, out-of-state cooperatives and contractor companies, we were able to fan out across our service territory soon after the storm and begin restoring power so that our members could start rebuilding their lives. Without this cooperative effort, the work that needed to be done would have been overwhelming, if not impossible.
The principle of “Cooperation among Cooperatives” is not without effort; it requires a commitment to serve. The linemen and our support personnel were asked to leave their responsibilities at home and come to our members’ aid, and they did so without reserve. Growing up with a father who worked for an electric cooperative, I remember times when he would be gone for weeks helping to restore power after a hurricane or ice storm. Now more than ever, it is evident to me the sacrifices that these individuals and their families make to help us restore power to our members.
The hurricane brought with it massive amounts of damaging wind and rain, which made working in powerline rights-of-way a challenge. Some crews brought track equipment or bulldozers to clear paths and pull trucks in and out of areas they couldn’t reach on their own. One lineman told the story of having to wade through water up to his chest to assess a line in US Forest Service property. Even with these challenges, the crews persevered.
And their sacrifice goes well beyond restoring power. Our line superintendent, Shannon Inman, recounts how several of the assisting linemen passed out water, Gatorade and food items from their own stock to children and families in need. We received dozens of letters from children at local churches who praised the linemen for working in difficult conditions, providing power to their family and saving their pets.
Our own employees worked diligently, side-by-side with assisting crews making repairs and coordinating restoration efforts. Inside our office, employees worked hard to secure lodging, provide food service, deploy the “storm stock” of materials and provide other items necessary to keep the restoration effort rolling.
When disaster strikes, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives — and those across the nation for that matter — are not alone.
After the storm, the cooperative was blessed by community outreach. Our statewide association; our power supplier, NCEMC; and countless business and community partners provided their support and cooperation, which helped us keep everything running behind the scenes so our line crews could focus on their work.
We were heartened by our members as well. The overwhelming majority seemed less concerned about their own troubles than they were about the safety of our crews working in the field and the support team at our office. We had members who provided meals and washed clothes for crews working in their neighborhoods, volunteers who helped us pack up hot meals that we delivered to the crews, and many others who helped or offered to assist in any way they could to support us.
When disaster strikes, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives — and those across the nation for that matter — are not alone. There is a single consistent element in every storm event: Help, from dedicated and determined cooperative linemen and support personnel who show up with a spirit and energy that keeps them going until every single light is burning once more.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to all the cooperative linemen, support personnel, community and business partners who helped all of North Carolina’s electric co-ops recover from Hurricane Florence. Thank you!
About the AuthorJake Joplin is CEO at Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative in Newport.
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