Recovery efforts hit a milestone Tuesday night as crews dropped the number of customers without electric service to less than 1,000 after six exhausting days.
Crews continue to concentrate on some of Bradley County’s most severely damaged neighborhoods on the one-week anniversary of the April 27 tornado-spawning storms that ripped through the community last Wednesday in five waves.
For the first time since the recovery effort began, a Cleveland Utilities line worker sustained injuries; he reportedly fell from a truck at about midday Tuesday, according to Tom Wheeler, general manager. The line worker, who has not been identified, was transported to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga and remains there today.
“I would ask everyone to keep this individual in their prayers as we all pray for a speedy recovery,” Wheeler said early today. “This person was heavily involved in the power restoration effort and had been working long hours in the effort to restore power to our community.”
Since last week’s violent tornado outbreak, CU and outside crews have worked 16-hour shifts, stopping only long enough to get a few hours’ rest in order to resume their dangerous tasks the next morning.
“I would also ask for everyone’s continued thoughts and prayers for the safety of our workers, both local and those who have come to help us from the outside, who remain on the job,” Wheeler said. “With less than 1,000 customers remaining without service, we are into the home stretch toward full recovery. There is still a lot of dangerous work to do and after six full days of work, fatigue does become a factor.”
CU’s strength was bolstered Friday by 10 out-of-town line crews that arrived with well-equipped bucket trucks from Florida, Kentucky and other Tennessee communities. Three more outside crews arrived Monday, and on Tuesday Volunteer Energy Cooperative began releasing some of its out-of-town crews in order to assist with the Cleveland Utilities recovery.
According to information reported at this morning’s daily briefing at the Emergency Operations Center, VEC now has less than 295 customers in Bradley County without service. This progress allowed VEC to free up some of its outside crews to help in the extensive, and complicated, CU recovery.
“I can’t say enough about the cooperation and help we have been receiving from all of our city and county emergency agencies,” Wheeler said. “Police, sheriff, fire, rescue, ambulance and 911 have all done everything they can to assist Cleveland Utilities in the recovery of the electric grid.”
He added, “By coordinating the entire emergency, Mayor Tom Rowland, Mayor Gary Davis and (EMA Director) Troy Spence have all contributed greatly to assisting our electric workers and we are very grateful to them all.”
CU crews and their out-of-town brethren are making strong headway into a full electric grid recovery; however, because of complications in some of the repairs it is conceivable some remaining customers will not have power restored in their homes for another week. Wheeler targeted May 11 as the projected date for having 100 percent full restoration to the electric grid.
By tonight, restoration line crews will have 97 percent of the system restored and by Friday the number should reach 99 percent.
“We are certainly not complete with our work but our customers have been most understanding of the task we had before us,” Wheeler said. “We appreciate them all for their support during this trying time.”