Missouri cooperatives help G&T purchase materials for rebuild after a major ice storm.
JANUARY ICE STORMS ARE NOT UNUSUAL IN MISSOURI, BUT THE ONE THAT HIT IN 2009 caused unprecedented damage to the state's transmission system. Wide-scale assistance efforts are the typical response to massive outages, but what the other Missouri generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives did to help their fellow G&T cooperative puts a new spin on the definition of mutual aid.
On Jan. 26, 2009, a major winter storm crawled across the southeast corner of Missouri, northern Arkansas and Kentucky. When it was over, there were 1.5 to 2 inches (38 to 51 mm) of radial ice load on the power lines. To put that in perspective, in Missouri, lines are typically designed to withstand ice loads of 0.5 inches (12.7 mm).
At M&A Electric Cooperative (Poplar Bluff, Missouri, U.S.), the hardest-hit G&T, engineer Dan Kopp brought a piece of ice into the office that was 2 inches thick. Employees who spent their entire careers working for M&A had never seen ice like that. The ice took its toll, bringing down both transmission and distribution lines. With the transmission falling, power plants began to shut down.
The storm caused wide-scale outages, impacting entire communities. On Jan. 26, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency. On Jan. 28, with 100,000 customers without power and six storm-related deaths, he activated the National Guard and asked President Obama to approve his request for an expedited major disaster declaration. By the next day, Gov. Nixon upped the number of troops from 100 to 150. On Jan. 30, that number increased to 200. On the Jan. 31, the number was up to 300. By Feb. 1, the number topped out at 365.
When it was over, eight deaths were attributed to the storm and 135,000 customers were without power — and that was just in Missouri. Along the southeast edge of the state, the cooperative distribution systems were devastated, with miles of transmission line literally on the ground.
From a transmission perspective, M&A was the hardest-hit G&T co-op, with 21 miles (34 km) of 345-kV and 26 miles (42 km) of 161-kV line on the ground — all on wooden structures. About 215 miles (346 km) of 69-kV line were badly damaged, with 1100 poles broken. M&A also maintains and operates 25 miles (40 km) of 345-kV line on wood structures owned by Associated Electric Cooperative (Springfield, Missouri), all of which were on the ground.
Of M&A's 75 substations, 46 lost power during the storm. While some were out for just a few hours, others were without power for up to 21 days. M&A scrambled to restore service to its substations, but it did not help residential customers in some areas, because the distribution cooperatives were also devastated. M&A provides power to four distribution co-ops. Three suffered heavy damage. One of the smaller co-ops had about 8000 distribution poles down.
The few steel towers near power plants fared better but did not go unscathed. They remained standing, but the ice load on the lines damaged arms and broke static wires. And as the ice melted and the conductors galloped, the yoke plates started cracking.
As linemen and contractors flooded into the area, M&A was faced with the Herculean task of rebuilding. The co-op spent 40 to 50 years building lines that now needed to be rebuilt in a time frame being measured in days. Fortunately, it had help in the form of a well-oiled purchasing group. It wasn't M&A's purchasing group, but that did not matter.
In Missouri, the electrical cooperatives are organized in a three-tier system. The 39 distribution cooperatives own the six transmission, with some generation, cooperatives. They, in turn, own Associated Electric Cooperative, which is the main generating arm of the system.
Several years ago, five of the six G&Ts formed a purchasing group. M&A is the only G&T that is not a member, as most of M&A's work is maintenance, which explains why it does not maintain a large inventory of parts or purchase in bulk. With a sister co-op in trouble, the purchasing group stepped up and volunteered to order the materials needed for the 345-kV line restoration. M&A welcomed the assistance.
It was a massive job. In one way, the total destruction of the lines worked in M&A's favor. The co-op decided to scrap everything on the ground and rebuild from scratch. M&A used the original plan and profile sheets to rebuild the lines. While the poles were not reset in the same holes, the new poles were close enough that re-engineering was not required.
GET IT ORDERED
By Feb. 10, with the ice melted and the damage surveyed, the purchasing group met at an Associated Electric facility in Springfield. By then, the engineering company M&A uses had generated a materials list for the lines, and Associated Electric had provided engineering information about its line. With a comprehensive materials list in hand, the purchasing group did two things. First, the five purchasing managers divided up the materials by category, each taking responsibility for part of the work (see table on page 48). Second, Associated Electric set up a large receiving yard near the M&A territory, at an old truck stop, in Marston, Missouri. Located right off of Interstate 55, the vacant site had lots of bare asphalt to use as a yard.
A personnel trailer was moved on-site, and the makeshift Marston Store Yard was staffed 24/7 for quite a while. All the materials were delivered directly to the site. With a delivery address and the materials broken out by type, each purchasing manager was able to focus on just a few suppliers and start ordering materials. With such widespread damage, the ordering was fast and furious. Managers placed orders over the phone, faxed purchase orders and, in some cases, sent letters of commitment to vendors so materials would be held for M&A. The vendors responded, but it took a significant effort to meet M&A's very aggressive delivery schedules.
VENDORS GO THE EXTRA MILE
Most vendors supplying materials to electric utilities keep an eye on the weather and stay in touch with their customers, so they know when emergencies are on the way and can start preparing for the big orders that are bound to come in afterward. However, the situation in Missouri held a few surprises. The orders for M&A came in, but they did not come from M&A. Also, the delivery schedules were quite aggressive. With so much of the transmission system down, it was imperative for reconstruction to begin and be completed as quickly as possible.
This was not business as usual. The vendors had to adapt. One example is Hubbell Power Systems (Centralia, Missouri). For a typical 345-kV project, delivery times are usually 12 or 15 weeks. M&A needed materials much sooner. It wanted to energize lines in 12 weeks.
Like most vendors, Hubbell did not have that much material on the shelf; therefore, its manufacturing plants had to ramp up production. In some cases, alternative manufacturing methods were found. For example, Hubbell hired outside suppliers to perform certain tasks it would normally do in-house, like machining. Hubbell's connector group subcontracted work to some shops around Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. Work was done on the weekends just to meet the delivery schedule.
Vendors also had to keep M&A and the purchasing group informed, which was a full-time job for some of the bigger suppliers. At Hubbell, a customer service person was assigned that full-time task. She spent her days tracking orders and keeping everyone up-to-date on delivery schedules.
CLEAN UP AND REBUILD
The rebuild was labor-intensive and went on around the clock. During the weeks following the storm, the number of workers at M&A swelled from about 45 to several hundred, as line workers from other co-ops and contractors flooded into the region. Some had to stay in hotels 50 miles (80 km) or more from their work site because local hotels did not have power.
They had to work in very difficult conditions. The M&A territory is mostly farm country and when the weather warmed, the ground turned to mud. In some cases, workers had to load trucks onto sleds and pull them to the work sites with a bulldozer.
Wire and pole debris was piled by the nearest road where it could be picked up later. There were roughly 2 million lbs (907,185 kg) of salvage conductors on the 345-kV and 161-kV lines. Debris removal alone took months to complete.
At this time, M&A is still working to make improvements to the system, and the co-op is making permanent fixes to replace temporary fixes. M&A also plans to reconductor most of the 200 miles (322 km) of 69-kV line, which could take two to three years. Because of load constraints, M&A can only perform this work for five or six months a year. The co-op is also installing storm structures on the 345-kV, the 161-kV and possibly the 69-kV lines, in the hope that, if this happens again, cascading failures would stop at a storm structure.
The authors deeply appreciate that the recovery effort of this ice storm involved many, many hands. The following manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and contractors helped in this effort: Preformed Line Products (Ohio); Seves USA (Ohio); Bell Lumber & Pole (Minnesota); Hughes Brothers (Nebraska); McFarland Cascade (Washington); General Cable (Kentucky); SFPOC (China); Hubbell Power Systems (Missouri); Windsor Communications (Missouri); Kriz-Davis Co. (Nebraska); Harry Cooper Supply Co. (Missouri); Stuart C. Irby Co. (Mississippi); and Fletcher-Reinhardt Co. (Missouri).
Jim Hixson (email@example.com) is the purchasing manager at N.W. Electric Power Cooperative Inc. (Cameron, Missouri) and a current member and past president of the G&T Purchasing Advisory Group to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He has a bachelor's degree from William Jewell College in Missouri and has worked in the utility industry for 35 years. He is a current member of the Institute of Supply Management.
Mark Weber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the manager of materials and services at Central Electric Power Cooperative (Jefferson City, Missouri). He joined the co-op in that position in 1995 and supervises purchasing and inventory. Prior to joining the co-op, he was co-owner and president of L&M Office Supply Co. Inc., an office supply and furniture business in Jefferson City. He is also a current member and past president of the G&T Purchasing Advisory Group.
Stephen Pogue (email@example.com) is the risk and compliance manager for M&A Electric Power Cooperative (Poplar Bluff, Missouri). He has been in that position since September 2008. Pogue has held prior management positions in the insurance service industry and various positions at a rural electric distribution cooperative.
|The five members of the purchasing group||Materials|
|Central Electric Power Cooperative |
Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S.
|Wooden poles, guy wire and ground wire|
|KAMO Power |
Vinita, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Conductors and crossarms|
|Northeast Missouri Electric Power |
|N.W. Electric Power Cooperative Inc. |
|Insulators and connectors|
|Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative |
Ahead of a slow-moving storm system in the southwest, warm Gulf of Mexico moisture streaming over a much-colder air mass, anchored over the Plains and the Ozarks, produced an extended period of winter precipitation across southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri. Widespread freezing rain, sleet and snow fell across the region with significant accumulation. When the storm system moved into the Plains and the Ozarks, a final round of precipitation fell in the form of snow. Freezing rain, with ice accumulation over 1 inch (25 mm) in some areas, predominately fell across south central Missouri. The ice accumulation on trees and power lines resulted in extensive power outages in portions of south central Missouri.
January 26-28, 2009