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May Storms Flood CEC with Calls Outage calls and storm shelter inquiries keep co-op employees hopping


T


he destructive storms that swept through Oklahoma the latter part of May downed 35 Choctaw Electric Cooperative power poles and caused widespread outages.


While no tornadoes were reported in the Choctaw Electric Cooperative (CEC) service area, the strong, straight-line winds on May 21 caused trees and limbs to topple into power lines.


Jim Malone, CEC director of operations and engineering, said at one point over 3,000 co-op members were without power. “We had outages from the Farris/Clayton area all the way to Smithville, Broken Bow and Idabel,” Malone said. “We’d get 400 or 500 members back on, and then another 100 would go out somewhere else. It wore our guys out, but they hung in there.”


In the Smithville area, restoration efforts were hindered by heavy flooding. “Our crew waded in to see if there was something they could do, but we had to wait until the water receded,” Malone explained.


Some members in the flood-affected area were without power for up to 52 hours. “Once the water went down and we could get our trucks in there, we were able to get the power back on pretty quickly," Malone said.


The storm caused minor damage to homes, barns and outbuildings as it blew through. This damage,coupled with the terrible news of the Moore tornado, was enough to generate renewed interest in CEC’s storm shelter program.


Jennifer Boling, coordinator of the program, said her phone rang of the hook and has not let up. “I cannot keep up with the number of calls and questions,” she said. “Finally, I created an answering message directing people to our website or asking them to leave their contact information so I can return their call later. It’s been wild.”


Since the storm, Boling has issued over 100 storm shelter loan applications to members. At least 35 more loan applications are awaiting board approval—and the calls keep coming in. Boling said she has visited with countless members who would like to know how the shelters are designed, installation costs, and proven safety record.


Members can find information on storm shelter designs, holding capacity, sizes, installation, plus a breakdown of monthly loan payments by visiting the CEC website at www.choctawelectric.coop.


CEC works with two manufacturing companies: Hausner offers inground precast shelters and safe rooms in various


Choctaw Electric crews work to repair service near Rattan after a powerful storm moved through the area on May 21. PHOTO/JENNIFER BOLING, CEC.


sizes. Security Storm Shelters offers inground shelters that are poured on site. They also build above-ground safe rooms. “Both companies produce an excellent storm shelter, but they each offer different design features,” Boling said. “I tell members to read the


brochures and choose the one that best fits their needs and budget.”


CEC has structured the storm shelter loans so that any member can afford to install a storm shelter. "With this program every family on our lines can have a safe, well constructed storm shelter for as low as $48.00 a month," Boling said.


The only downside is you might have to ride out the remainder of this summer without it. "Our waiting list for storm shelter installations runs into October," she explained. "But we still encourage members to fill out their applications. They may have to wait a few months to get their shelter, but after it’s in they have a lifetime of peace of mind. That’s worth waiting for." ■


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