Spring roared in like an angry lion, crashing through many states, including North Carolina. The state experienced its worst tornadoes in more than 20 years. The severe weather killed 24 people, injured hundreds, destroyed and damaged buildings, and knocked down transmission and distribution lines.

“There were a total of 28 confirmed tornadoes that hit the ground in North Carolina on Saturday, April 16. Five of the tornadoes were listed as EF3, with wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph,” said Kristie Aldridge, spokesperson for North Carolina’s electric cooperatives.

These 26 co-ops power more than 950,000 households and businesses in 93 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, primarily in rural areas, and serve 24 percent of the state’s population.
“At the peak, our outages were around 100,000,” Aldridge said. “Our co-ops always lend a hand to other affected co-ops in times of emergencies because our systems are pretty much the same. There are mutual-aid agreements in place to help in a cooperative way. For that storm, there were enough co-ops in the state that were unaffected and able to go to neighboring co-ops to help those that really needed assistance.”

Two co-ops were hit particularly hard: the Central Electric Membership Corp. (EMC), located west of Raleigh, and South River EMC, southeast of Raleigh. The major source of outages was falling trees, damaged poles and issues with high-voltage transmission lines.

“There was a lineman at South River EMC whose home was destroyed. He made sure his family was safe and then returned to the job to make sure all South River EMC members had power restored as quickly as possible. Must be a heck of a guy,” Aldridge said.

Electric cooperatives exist to provide members with the best possible service at the lowest possible cost. Despite the extensive damage, the electric co-ops of North Carolina worked together and had all customers back online by April 18 at lunchtime, thanks to a well-coordinated, cooperative effort.