Winter Storm Elliott coverage

Coop CurrentsCoop News

By the Co-op Currents Editorial Committee

On December 23, 2022, Winter Storm Elliott reached Vermont with extremely high winds coming from an unusual direction, and a thaw followed by a temperature plunge that created icy conditions so fast, state officials warned drivers to get to wherever they planned to spend the night by 3 p.m.

It was a historic storm for WEC, almost doubling the Co-op’s record for broken poles caused by a single storm (40) and costing, at latest count, just under a million dollars. How much of that will be covered by FEMA funding is still to be determined.

Approximately half of WEC’s members lost power; some for six days. In past storms, more members have lost power and for longer durations However, this storm occurred during winter and the convergence of several major holidays, causing profound concern and inconvenience to members. Compounding this were communications issues caused by damage to WEC’s system and overload at the Cooperative Response Center, the overflow call center used by electric co-ops around the country.

Back in 1997, during Game 5 of the NBA finals, Michael Jordan famously scored 38 points with a 103-degree fever to help the Chicago Bulls secure a win. We were reminded of this as WEC operations staff with Covid worked long hours in isolation to support their colleagues in the field. The general manager worked through a case of the flu. Restoration crews worked 18-hour days for six days straight. Support staff put in similar time. This kind of legendary effort is something to appreciate, if not exactly something to celebrate. Work-life balance does not apply when it comes to getting every last member’s power back on in the aftermath of a storm.

This issue of Co-op Currents presents a few different perspectives from WEC leadership and membership about the outage, restoration, and lessons for the future.