On Saturday morning, January 11, around 7:00 AM, tornado sirens around Hopkinsville began wailing out a warning to the residents to take cover…a dangerous storm front was about to hit. Within minutes, the storm assaulted the city, concentrating damage around the Glass Avenue area, snapping off electric poles and bringing down lines. In addition, 2 of the 3 high voltage TVA transmission lines supplying power into Hopkinsville were also damaged, shutting off the flow of power.
By around 7:30 AM, the phones at Hopkinsville Electric System began to ring, with residents calling to report they had no power. But the HES lineman had already been suiting up at their homes, knowing that strong storms and high winds always cause power disruptions. Within minutes, lineman and operations personnel were headed to the HES office, ready to work as long as necessary to restore power to all HES customers. At this point, approximately 95% of all HES customers were without power.
The first order of business was a thorough assessment of the damage and current state of the HES electric system. TVA confirmed that 2 of their 3 high voltage feeder lines were down, leaving three of the four HES substations without power. So, the 69,000 volt (common household voltage is 120 volts) loop connecting all the substations was going to have be switched around to re-energize the substations. However, a section of that loop on Glass Avenue was damaged and would have to be bypassed. Due to the extreme danger of working with high voltage electric lines, a detailed restoration plan was created, checked, then double checked, and all HES personnel issued copies of the plan to insure absolute safety during the process of rerouting power. Then the dangerous work began.
Once the four substations were resupplied with power, the next goal was to restore power to as many customers as possible as quickly as possible. Individual circuits serving portions of the city were energized as long as no line faults were detected. Circuits showing faults were assessed, repaired, and switched on. By around noon, power had been restored to 90% of HES customers. From that point on, broken poles and lines began being repaired. Finally, at around 3:00 AM Sunday morning, over 19 hours after the storm had done its damage, the power to all HES customers had been restored. During this time, many HES lineman and operations personnel had worked non-stop, only taking breaks for food and rest. HES received approximately 2,500 phone calls during the outage, keeping office personnel busy as well.
Electric line work is already one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. But power outages due to storms increase the danger, due to broken poles, downed lines, and adverse working conditions that remain after the main storm as passed. But HES line workers accept all these risks as just part of the job…keeping electricity flowing to every HES customer. We want all HES customers to know that providing continuous electric and internet services to our customers is our number one priority and the reason we exist. We don’t take our responsibilities lightly and work hard every day to provide high quality services to all of our customers. We are here to serve.