Cheatham County’s utility linemen had just gotten off their eight-hour shifts when they were called back to work at 6 p.m. Friday, June 21.
An unusual southbound storm consisting of strong winds and heavy rain was making its way toward the county. As it hit CEMC’s power grid, it began shutting down substations immediately, said Michael Blackwell, manager of district operations for the utility company.
“We were aware it was going to be a bad storm as it hit Dover and as it was approaching Clarksville,” Blackwell said. “It kind of just hit us across our system.
With 22 of the utility company’s poles down or broken and more than 12,000 members without power, many of the linemen didn’t stop working until 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Our guys didn’t even eat through the night,” Blackwell said.
Saturday evening, crews from Indiana showed up and took over for a few hours. But by Sunday at 5 a.m., the original Cheatham County crews were back out making repairs.
“Our guys just have a drive,” he said. “That’s just the way a lineman is geared.”
There are 10 linemen who regularly work in Cheatham County and they all also live there, CEMC manager Seth Roberts said.
The first step in getting the power restored is repairing all of the substations, he said. Those are the center points of many power lines and breakers and when those go out, every member “down the line” will lose power, he said.
In Cheatham County, there are substations in Ashland City, Pleasant View and on Bearwallow Road and Oak Plains Road
Each substation can have up to four breakers and each breaker serves, on average, between 750 and 1,000 customers, he said.
“So, a member that has the power go out and it seems like we’re not doing anything ... we have to start at the beginning and work our way to the end,” he said.
One way that customers can tell if a repair may take a few hours is if the lights blink a few times before going off completely, he said. That means the breaker has attempted to clear the issue but something has caused a more serious concern.
When this happens, many people want a timeline for how long they will be without power, Blackwell said.
“It just depends on what they find,” he said. “All I can tell you is we got guys who are working on it.”
Once multiple waves of the storm passed through and the crews were able to make all the repairs, the work caused by the event still isn’t complete.
“It doesn’t end when the last light comes back on,” he said.
Often, there are fallen trees to be cleaned up and paperwork to be completed.
“There’s a storm’s worth of work after the storm work is done,” he said.