Tideland receives $1.9 million to cover Florence costs

Published 6:36 pm Thursday, July 11, 2019

More than $22 million in state and federal funds will help three North Carolina electric membership cooperatives cover some of the costs of responding to Hurricane Florence. Locally, Tideland EMC is set to receive approximately $1.9 million, most of which will help cover labor costs during the response.

During the storm, 77% of Tideland’s members lost power, with the heaviest damages sustained in Pamlico and Craven counties. Restoring power to those members in turn required a monumental effort on the part of Tideland line workers, as well as assistance from other groups.

“The majority of our cost was labor,” said Heidi Smith, Tideland EMC corporate communications manager. “We had 133 men and women working to restore power, and that’s more than three times our normal workforce.”

For Tideland members, the infusion of state and federal funds is fortunate. Had those funds not come through, Smith says customers would have been the ones to pay for the cost of storm response.

“We are so grateful for those funds, because it would be an unexpected expense that we would obviously have to look to our ratepayers to foot that bill,” Smith said. “We’re really pleased that the state and federal government make those funds available to utilities and, in particular, electric co-ops.”

In addition to sparing customers’ wallets, the funds also have a secondary effect of allowing the co-op to continue improving the overall system and making preparations for future storms.

“It helps us stay on track in our own work plans to continue to build a stronger, more resistant electrical system so that we’re increasingly in a better position to weather storms,” Smith said. “This isn’t the last one. Since 2011, we’ve had the two worst storms in our co-op’s history. Irene was a new benchmark and Florence, on top of that, was another new benchmark. I think it’s safe to say we will not see any time soon a reduction in storms. We are really determined to harden our infrastructure so we can have a much more resilient, storm-ready electric system.”