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cut paths through the debris so that co-op vehicles could access damaged lines.


While assessment of the storm could take weeks, Malone estimates two-thirds to three quarters of CEC infrastructure sustained serious to extreme damage. “We’ve lost 350 poles thus far, and we’ll find more as the days go by,” he said.


For a storm of this magnitude, Malone noted there were fewer poles on the ground than he expected. “If we’d had 20 mph winds, our system would’ve been a complete loss,” he added. “And it’s devastating enough already.”


Treacherous driving near Hugo. PHOTO/ KAREN BAILEY-BOONE.


hirteen years may seem like eons, but to those who experienced the ice storm of 2000, the memories return in a snap—and sometimes a pop.


Cleon Clobbers Co-op T


Ice storm causes widespread damage and power outages


“It all came back to me as I laid in bed, listening to the sound of limbs breaking,” said Jennifer Boling. The Choctaw Electric Cooperative (CEC) member services representative said it’s something you hear often these days. “There’s just something ominous about sitting there in the


dark, wondering if that tree is going to crash down on your house.”


The sky began falling on December 5 as Winter Storm Cleon moved across Oklahoma dumping up to 6 inches of snow in some regions, and locking Choctaw,


8 | january 2014


Pushmataha and parts of McCurtain County in ice up to 2 inches thick. As trees, poles and power lines surrendered to the heavy weight, co-op employees and members braced for the worst—and got it. Cleon clobbered southeast Oklahoma.


"If we would’ve had 20 mph winds, our system would’ve been a complete loss."


At the peak of the storm some 10,000 CEC members lost power. By December 8, outages had decreased by half. Four days later, co-op crews whittled it down to 750, then 400, and then 100, until power was restored to all


— JIM MALONE, CEC


but the most severely impacted areas near Unger, Soper and Antlers.


“It was slow-going with all the trees down,” said Jim Malone, CEC director of engineering and operations. Along many roads, chainsaw crews worked to


For the co-op that survived the storm of 2000—an event that left residents out of power for over three weeks—these are hardly insignificant blessings. “Both storms are neck in neck as far as the size of the area affected,” said Malone. “Bigger trees came down in 2000, but we probably lost more this time because they were stressed from years of drought.”


At Choctaw Electric, a lot of improvements have taken place since the 2000 storm. “Now, all our vehicles are four-wheel drive,” Malone said. “And we have a track digger so we can get into rough and swampy areas and set poles without getting stuck.”


Advancements within the utility industry, heavier gauge wire and


Ice accumulations measure near 2 inches near Unger. PHOTO/JENNIFER BOLING


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