Two of the largest cooperatives serving Baldwin County, Riviera Utilities and Baldwin EMC, which serve more than 130,000 homes and businesses combined, experienced near total outage following Sally.
“One thing we want to stress through all of this is that all the forecasts had Sally making landfall as a tropical storm with 80 mile per hour winds,” said Mark Ingram, Baldwin EMC vice president of Corporate Services and Public Relations. “But when she made landfall, she had winds of between 105 and 110 miles per hour, a major storm. Almost nobody was prepared for this.”
For Baldwin EMC, more than 78,000 of the company’s 80,000 customers experienced a loss of power from the storm. That includes an estimated 4,297 trees on lines, 2,000 broken poles, 1,238 broken crossarms and 4,160 span of line down.
With offices in Summerdale, Orange Beach and Bay Minette, EMC serves customers all along the coast and rural areas throughout Baldwin County.
Other unique circumstances included salt accumulation and water intrusion over some equipment due to the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of acres of dense timberland, numerous watersheds and marshy areas, and 32 miles of coastline.
In addition to Baldwin EMC employees, nearly 1,400 additional line workers from 93 cooperatives spanning 12 states were called in to assist.
Miles McDaniel, manager of public affairs with Riviera Utilities, said essentially all of the company’s 51,000 customers lost power.
Based in Foley and Daphne, Riviera serves those municipalities, along with the communities of Spanish Fort, Montrose, Fairhope, Point Clear, Silverhill, Loxley, Summerdale, Magnolia Springs, Bon Secour, Elberta and Lillian.
For Riviera, damage included 300 electrical poles, 200 transformers and 75 miles of line, McDaniel said.
Through its reciprocal agreement with other agencies, Riviera was able to call in over 400 additional crew members from 17 different assisting agencies in Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.
By Tuesday, both companies were reporting more than 80 percent of their customers’ power had been restored.
“I’ve been from one end of this county to the other,” Ingram said. “People keep asking, what areas were most affected by this and I’m here to tell you, there’s not a single area that was affected more than another. Everyone was impacted by this storm.”