- Thursday July 12th, 2012 :: 07:00 p.m. EDT
A message from the Vineland Electric Utility.
A Sincere Thanks to the Citizens of Vineland
The City of Vineland experienced one of the worst storms in recent memory. While the event was short, the results were catastrophic. The sheer number of trees that toppled is astounding resulting in damage to homes and property. Probably the biggest victim of the storm was the Cities electrical system. Vineland Municipal Electric Utility (VMEU) services nearly 25,000 electric customers, and following the one hour storm, approximately 21,000 customers were without electricity.
Twenty utility distribution feeders locked open, over 100 utility poles were damaged or destroyed, 40 transformers were destroyed, wire all over town was pulled to the ground and approximately 500 Individual home services were down. The damage was extensive and throughout the town.
VMEU and this community prides itself in our ability to restore power quickly to our customers. It did not take long to determine that we could not do this alone. Utility management provided support with obtaining outside assistance. Unfortunately, the entire region was affected and the only available crews were in Texas; and with additional support provided from our fellow New Jersey Municipal utilities namely Lavallette, South River and Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative. Later, additional crews rolled in from Maryland and Virginia when they became available. VMEU presently has a staff of 16 line personnel making up 4 line crews. The staff was supplemented with in-house personnel from other areas of distribution, customer service and our generation facility. Outside line support staff totaled an additional 58 line personnel making up an additional 17 crews. This does not include the 4 additional tree crews that supplemented the 4 tree crews we usually run. Total staff coordinated through utility restoration was approximately 131.
Verizon set up an emergency operations center and provided several pole setting crews allowing our line workers to stay in the air and restore service to our customers. This was an enormous staff for our town but the extent and expanse of the damage required it. We should also recognize our police, fire, and road departments who supported the efforts with traffic control, manning down wires and burning limbs, cleared roads, assisted with tree removal and provided access to facilities in many difficult locations. Their efforts for the Utility were in addition to their support to our Citizens in their time of need. Even with all the assistance, restoration took 12 days with individual customer’s still reporting outages that we are now responding to within hours.
Typical utility emergency restoration includes locating the problem on a circuit, repairing it and restoring power. This was not the case due to the numerous problems on nearly every circuit. Crews started at the source until they encountered a major problem and isolated the area to restore power to what sections they could. Most circuits were individually reconfigured isolating major damage areas. Storm restoration starts with providing power to priority circuits that feed critical care and community support facilities when possible. Then priority is placed on providing power to as many customers as quickly as possible considering the extent of the damages in specific areas and the location of utility crews as they clear other areas. The other priority is the safety of our restoration personnel; crews working 16 hour shifts need rest periods so they can stay focused when performing a dangerous and hazardous job. The biggest complication with this restoration was the amount and extent of the damages throughout our community; in a typical storm we would replace a few poles and/or transformers; not the numbers we encountered.
The fact that our warehouse kept supplies flowing was a wonder. In a typical storm, what would take 4 to 6 hours to repair took 8 to 12 hours due to the amount of destruction encountered.
Many customers without power became frustrated the longer outages lasted, and we were frustrated that power could not be restored quicker. As with any emergency effort, we will review our response, consider all comments, and work to make improvements. We hope this is a once in a lifetime event but we will strive to learn from everything so we can improve things and always do better for our customers. We sincerely thank our community for their support, their kind words, their criticism’s as we all strive to do things better. We thank all the vendors that supported us with supplies and donations. Being without electric as long as it was is unimaginable for us, and the conditions this community tolerated were amazing. The out of town crews who aided us in our time of need have experienced many catastrophes, but they all commented on what a wonderful community this was to work in and how nice the people are here. With all the destruction to our system and personal property we are thankful and blessed that the level of personal injury was as little as it was.
Thank you all and God Bless the good people of Vineland, New Jersey.
Robert A. Napier
Assistant Superintendent, Vineland Municipal Electric Utility.
Vineland Fire Dept./ Vineland OEM
110 N 4th St
Vineland, NJ 08360