Memorial Day storms, flash floods cause hundreds of outages impacting thousands of Bluebonnet members


Bluebonnet Apprentice Lineman Jake Green carries away limbs cut by Crew Supervisor Patrick Little Tuesday near Cedar Creek in Bastrop County. Green and Little had to remove the fallen tree before they could reach a pole to begin repairs and restore power to dozens of co-op members. (Sarah Beal photo)

Powerful storms ripped through Central Texas Memorial Day, loaded with torrential rain, high winds and thousands of lightning strikes. The storms resulted in flash floods and caused widespread power outages throughout Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s service area. 

Beginning at 4 p.m., Monday, May 25, through 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 27, Bluebonnet responded to 433 outages and restored power to 9,450 members. The majority were in Caldwell, Bastrop, Lee and Washington counties.

“It’s been a long week for our Bluebonnet crews, and we truly appreciate the patience and understanding showed by our members,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “We have received so many positive comments on social media, emails and phone calls. But we know we didn’t make everyone happy, so we will take a hard look at what and how we can do better next time.”  

High winds toppled trees and limbs, which broke power poles and severed dozens of spans of power lines. Before Bluebonnet’s crews could begin to repair the damage, they had to cut and remove trees and limbs impeding access to poles and power lines. These outages often affected dozens or hundreds of members at a time, and were labor- and time-intensive to repair. Bluebonnet replaced 18 power poles damaged during Monday’s storms.

Lightning strikes caused extensive damage to equipment on Bluebonnet’s 11,000 miles of power lines. Bluebonnet replaced 50 transformers, 49 lightning arrestors (a protective device that limits damage by diverting the high-voltage surge to the ground) and more than 400 fuses. Replacing fuses, transformers and other equipment usually is a routine repair for Bluebonnet’s crews who use trucks with cranes and work from “buckets” on extendable arms to replace 200- to 300-pound transformers.

Many of the transformers replaced this week were done the old-fashioned way – linemen climbed poles and used ropes and pulleys to lower damaged transformers and lift their replacements.

Replacing a fuse is one of the most routine repairs, but not when crews have to walk along miles of power lines through flooded fields and cross rain-swollen creeks, carrying all the equipment they’ll need, just to get to the blown fuse.

“We never take an extended outage for granted or consider it acceptable,” Rose said. “Restoring power during such a widespread event is even harder than it looks, and this storm event was one of the most significant I’ve seen in nearly 30 years in this business.”

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