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Stormbound: Clay Electric Co-operative linemen volunteer for Hurricane Michael relief

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. At least 60 deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Michael, and the damage is estimated at $11.3 billion. Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with the brunt of its force and curved east along the coast, hitting Georgia and the Carolinas with heavy rains and brutal winds.

The hurricane battered regions that had just weathered Hurricane Florence the month before. An estimated 1.2 million households were without power in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Cooperatives and utilities all along the east coast mobilized, and hearing the call for aid, Clay Electric Co-operative mobilized as well.

L-R Clay Electric Co-operative employees Brody Snell, Phillip Durre and Damien Bowling return from helping restore power to North Carolina and Florida residents in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

Clay Electric was one of the multitudes of co-ops across more than a dozen states to send mutual aid to those affected by Hurricane Michael. Clay Electric’s crew were asked to retrace the path they had taken a month before to again help South River EMC in North Carolina. They were staged with materiel and workers from all over the map to be ready to respond to outages as soon as it was safe to do so.

The Carolinas were not as heavily battered by Michael as they were by Hurricane Florence. The crew aided in the restoration efforts of South River EMC before being sent to Piedmont EMC to assist in their efforts. The crew would make a short trip to Florida to work in the restoration efforts there before being sent home.

The idea of mutual aid is tied directly to one of the seven fundamental principles of the cooperative model, cooperation among cooperatives. “Michael, like Florence before, was an opportunity for us to help our sister cooperatives on the coast,” said Luke Johnson, interim CEO of Clay Electric. “You can’t stop Mother Nature. All you can do is help your neighbor when you can and know they will help you in turn.”

Clay Electric’s relief crew spent a week in between North Carolina and Florida working 17-hour days to help the members left without power. We are grateful for their willingness to sacrifice time at home with their families to help our co-op family recover from this natural disaster. Clay Electric Co-operative counts itself lucky to have people who truly care, not just for their own community, but for people all around our great nation.