Damaged power lines cause outages into Monday

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Heavy winds and thunderstorms over the weekend left more than 20,000 in Madison County without power. Huntsville Utilities worked around the clock to bring people back online. but most people waited hours. Many didn't get power back until Sunday, or even Monday morning.

Michele Armstrong returned to her Providence Place apartment around 6:00 PM Saturday evening.

"All of Providence was completely dark. Couldn't get in via my garage, had to tackle and find my keys. Then came to realize we were all out of power, it wasn't just me," she said.

She said without power, she felt lost, but she knew crews were working in the area.

"We were all thinking well surely it's going to come back on. All the restaurants around had opened up their doors thinking come in and have a drink, just hang with us and then the power will come back on," Armstrong explained.

Armstrong said she figured it would be a little while before power came back on, but wasn't ready for it to take as long as it did.

"An hour turned into two hours, turned into three hours. We're hungry, we're hot, ready to get utilities back on so we can get back to enjoying our weekend," she said.

Three hours turned into over 7 hours. Power didn't come back on until 1:30 Sunday morning.

"Needless to say we appreciate power now. Waking up Sunday morning and being able to turn on lights and have my refrigerator again," said Armstrong.

The biggest thing she took away from this is the importance of being prepared, saying, "I'll know more to have things on hand that I can snack on. Make sure I know where my flashlight is and have candles, batteries. That if we do go into another outage I need to make sure and have all that stuff together".

Huntsville Utilities Public Affairs Liaison Gary Whitley said this situation was not the norm.

"Generally if we have a power outage our crews are quick to respond as quickly and safely as possible," he said.

But this weekend was different due to the strong winds.

"This event was really driven by the large number and sheer volume of downed trees and limbs that fell across power lines. Doing tree removal work is time-consuming," said Whitley.

Whitley said about 70 trees fell and damaged power lines across Madison County.

"We then first need to remove those trees from the power line. Then determine what is actually damaged and then can start that repair process," he explained.

The damage caused people to lose power, with a small number going into Monday. But, Whitley assures Huntsville Utilities worked as fast as they could in the circumstances.

"Then those lines might have to be rebuilt, equipment replaced, brought in and installed. The sheer volume of the scattered outages across the service area, that just took some time," he said.

And though it might have seemed longer if you were affected, Huntsville Utilities got the number down from 20,000 people without power to just 100, in less than 48 hours.