The repairs and replacement were concluded July 14, an impressive but expensive turnaround since April 27-28.
The authority, the largest public utility nationwide, reported in late June that it had or would spend $200 million in areas from Northeast Mississippi into hardest-hit Alabama, and in parts of Tennessee and Georgia.
While some utility experts and political critics have said TVA’s grid to too fragile, Andrew Phillips of the Electric Power Research Institute told the Chattanooga Times Free Press “it would be almost impossible” to build a transmission line able to withstand the powerful tornadoes that struck in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi in late April.
The tornadoes took out 108 TVA power transmission lines and 353 of the utility’s power towers. In some areas the debris looked like damage seen in some science-fiction movies, but it was from terrifyingly real winds, some exceeding 200 mph.
TVA and affiliated crews have worked 16-to-18-hour days almost daily since the April storms.
The last repairs were at the Widow’s Creek Fossil Plant in northeast Alabama.
At peak, the storm damage left 14 power distributors and 847,000 homes and businesses at least partially in the dark; much of northern Alabama and parts of Northeast Mississippi without power for a week.
The storm damage shut down the three reactors at the Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant in north Alabama to be off-line for much of May, costing TVA $90 million in replacement power purchased on the market.
While the storm season is a seasonal lull (not including hurricanes moving inland) the authority’s directors, including the newly sworn Richard Howorth, former Oxford mayor, have a chance to consider concerns about the grid’s vulnerability.
The two-and-half-month effort restored 108 transmission lines, requiring 1.4 million pounds of steel and 275 miles of wire to replace 353 transmission structures.
TVA supplies power to about 9 million people in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
Tupelo was the first city to contract for TVA power, and the rest of Northeast Mississippi’s electric cooperatives also were among the authority’s other earliest customers.
The reach of TVA’s lines into even the most rural areas of its service region adds vulnerability, but TVA has kept its commitments through countless storms.