SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Sevier County Electric System management said power might not be fully restored for a few days after rain turned to snow Thursday night.
Allen Robbins, General Manager and CEO of SCES, said they had crews working around the clock, but staffing was their biggest issue getting the power restored.
Robbins said before snow came on Thursday, his crews were already recovering from a 24-hour shift repairing and restoring power after heavy wind the night before.
On top of that, Robbins said they were already down some crews due to COVID-19.
Then the snow came Thursday afternoon.
“This was a wet snow. So it’s all Pine trees, Cedar trees, you know, they’ll hang on to that snow and they’ll all bend over–and it’s outside of our trimming right of way—but they’ve all leaned in and got in to, or fell from the weight of the snow,” Robbins said.
“We went from having like just 100 customers still out, to 4,000 to 12,000 to 20,000 in just a matter of a few hours,” Robbins said.
Robbins said they have called crews in from other states and other parts of East Tennessee to help restore power.
“So we are now currently trying to procure help from North Carolina, potentially Georgia, South Carolina, and also in the Tennessee Valley; Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Benton County Electric System were all trying to send crews to us,” Robbins said.
The issue though is being that it’s Christmas, most of those outside crews aren’t coming until Friday night or Saturday morning.
“I hate it for our customers and it being Christmas, which is compounding the issue of getting crews in because obviously, these people in other areas want to be with their families,” Robbins said.
Robbins said his crews shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting around the county restoring power, but because of road conditions and downed trees, his crews won’t be able to go too fast.
Because power most likely won’t be restored for a few days, and with the temperatures getting colder into the night, Robbins said customers should try to find an alternative place to stay overnight.
Some people in Sevier County were already finding alternative ways to stay warm during the day on Friday.
“I’m currently sitting in my car with my dog so we stay warm. We lost our power about 6:30 last night,” Paulette Cloutier, a Gatlinburg resident, said.
Cloutier said Thursday night was rough, and it transitioned into an even rougher Christmas.
“There’s a lot of branches on the driveway and next to the house. I got a tree on my roof. I got one next to my car blocking my driver door,” Cloutier said.
Fortunately, the trees didn’t really damage her car or her house.
Cloutier isn’t sure though if she’ll be able to find somewhere else to stay for the night.
“I live on a big hill down and it’s very icy right now,” Cloutier said.
Despite being stuck without power and sitting in her car for warmth, Cloutier’s hopes were high.
“Keeping my fingers crossed. I know that they said three days, but keeping my fingers crossed,” Cloutier said.
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