Approximately 60 workers and a large contingent of equipment from nine electric cooperatives in Georgia headed to Virginia to help restore power following severe weather that hit the state on Friday evening.

Georgia co-ops offered help when it became clear that some areas suffered extensive damage to the electric infrastructure. According to Jim Wright, vice president of training, education and safety for Georgia EMC, and the statewide crew assistance coordinator for the EMCs, co-ops here were awaiting instructions from EMCs in areas hardest hit.

"We've been in contact with Virginia's EMC disaster response officials since late Friday night," says Wright. "It takes time for EMCs in the affected areas to complete damage assessments and develop a plan that allows for the most efficient power restoration process."

When the official call came for help, EMCs in Georgia were eager to come to the aid of fellow cooperatives.

"Co-ops have an understanding that says if we're in trouble, they help us. In return, we help them. It was our turn to provide assistance," says Wright.

When the severe weather hit, winds and heavy rain blew electric poles and structures to the ground and knocked hundreds of trees on power lines, shutting off power to thousands of EMC consumers.

The EMCs in Georgia have extensive experience in restoring power following destruction from a variety of weather events, including ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and severe weather like Virginia experienced Friday evening. In recent years, EMC crews have worked alongside co-ops in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

While crews can't say specifically in what order power will be restored when they arrive, many utilities follow a standard industry practice to repair and energize its lines. First, feeder and primary lines are repaired, then secondary and service lines next. This method restores power to the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time.

As of Sunday, equipment and crews had been sent from Blue Ridge Mountain EMC in Young Harris, Canoochee EMC in Reidsville, Carroll EMC in Carrollton, Central Georgia EMC in Jackson, Okefenoke Rural EMC in Nahunta, Snapping Shoals EMC in Covington, Southern Rivers Energy in Barnesville, Sumter EMC in Americus and Tri County EMC in Gray.

Georgia EMC is the statewide trade association representing the state's 42 EMCs, Oglethorpe Power Corp., Georgia Transmission Corp. and Georgia System Operations Corp. Collectively, Georgia's customer-owned EMCs provide electricity and related services to more than four million people, half of Georgia's population, across 73 percent of the state's land area.