Dafter, Michigan — Cloverland Electric Cooperative recovered from a historic week of extended multi-day outages after freezing rain and ice paralyzed the Eastern Upper Peninsula over the New Year’s holiday. Outage counts peaked to historic levels Monday, December 30, 2019, with more than half of the co-op’s 33,000 members in the dark. All available crews from the co-op’s five divisions worked to restore outages that numbered over 480 locations. Although crews restored thousands of outages after the initial storm, additional outages occurred and made it challenging to make an impact on the total number that fluctuated all week. Approximately 10,000 Cloverland members remained without power New Year’s eve and approximately half of those members were still without power for several more nights.
“As far as winter storms go, this one topped the list for doing the most damage to our electrical system,” said Cloverland Electric’s Director of Operations Paul Warner. “This is the worst widespread winter storm damage I have seen in my 28 years at the co-op.”
Storm damage was extensive across Cloverland’s service territory but concentrated in Chippewa County. Cloverland Electric line crews worked 16-hour days from Monday, December 30, 2019, to Monday, January 6, 2020. The co-op more than doubled its manpower with the addition of 21 mutual aid crews from across Michigan and nine tree-trimming crews.
“The snow and ice build-up from this storm made the restoration efforts much more difficult than most other storms,” said Cloverland Electric’s Director of Safety Jim Wilson. “The trees continued to hang over the lines in a draped condition that made it very hard to remove.”
The impact of social media made a major difference with keeping members updated with the storm restoration process. Knowing members were preserving battery life on mobile devices, the co-op provided a schedule for daily updates so members could plan accordingly. While there were understandably some complaints expressed on Cloverland Electric’s Facebook page, the general response was overwhelmingly positive with thousands of comments of praise for line crews.
“Mother Nature has not been very kind to us lately. From Thanksgiving to New Years, we were hit with two systems reeling heavy snow, winds, and ice which is never good in any combination. This storm unfortunately broke a record for the most members affected and longest duration,” said President and CEO Mike Heise. He added that an entire team of employees worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes throughout the holiday week to support restoration efforts. Heise reported the total cost of this historic outage is still being calculated but estimated it to be well over $1 million.
Cloverland Electric reminds the public to stay safe in all storm situations by staying clear of downed power lines and reporting them to 1-800-562-4953 or local law enforcement agencies. Members with access to Cloverland Electric's website and Cloverland Electric’s Facebook page can stay informed on updates with major outages. However, the co-op reminds its members not to use Facebook or other social media platforms to report outages since they are not connected to its outage management system. The most efficient process for reporting outages is through its SmartHub app or calling Member Services at (800) 562-4953.
Cloverland Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit, member-owned utility located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It serves over 43,000 homes and businesses in Chippewa, Delta, Mackinac, Luce, and Schoolcraft counties.