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{mosimage}August 31--  Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast over the weekend leaving millions of people without electricity.  As part of a coordinated restoration team, six crew members from Altamaha EMC left Lyons on Sunday to take part in the massive effort to aid consumers of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO). 

SMECO reported as many as 109,000 consumers without power after Hurricane Irene blew through the area.  Current updates show approximately 78,000 services have been restored, but 31,000 people are still without electricity.  SEMCO officials say it could be as late as this weekend before all power is restored.

Georgia EMCs currently have approximately 147 linemen responding to the call for help. Approximately 60 Georgia EMC linemen are working for Jones Onslow EMC in Jacksonville, North Carolina and approximately 87 linemen are assisting with restoration efforts for SMECO in Hughesville, MD. 

Matthew Johnson, Line Foreman for Altamaha EMC, called the office today with the following update: “Working with the SMECO crews and other crews from EMCs in Georgia, we have made a lot of progress.  But there are areas here in SMECO’s territory that haven’t even been assessed yet.  To date, SMECO reports over 200 utility poles that were broken by the storm.  We still have some very long days ahead of us.”  Accompanying Johnson are Wil Ledford, Frank Stokes, Dennis Morris, Glenn Gay and Tommy Reddish.

According to Georgia EMC Safety, Education and Training Vice President Jim Wright, the EMCs in Georgia were in close contact with EMCs to the north to pre-arrange assistance even before the hurricane made landfall. Wright says doing so allows the timely dispatch of an arsenal of Georgia co-ops consisting of much needed manpower, trucks and equipment. Personnel from many electric membership corporations (EMCs) in Georgia headed to North Carolina and Maryland over the weekend to help electric co-ops restore power to areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irene.

“It’s a massive effort to restore power in as short a time as possible,” Wright says. “The North Carolina and Maryland cooperatives will now have access to a large, experienced group of EMC line workers from Georgia to help them restore power as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

According to Tammye Vaughn, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Altamaha EMC, cooperatives in Georgia will offer crews and equipment for as long as necessary to get the lights back on for the consumers in the areas hit by Hurricane Irene. 

“Being an electric co-op means calling upon your neighbors during emergencies,” notes Vaughn.  “In the past, we’ve asked for and benefitted from the assistance of other cooperatives when we’ve been hard hit by storms, and it’s our duty and privilege to assist others now that their distribution system has been damaged.”