Power crews prevent electrical catastrophe

  • Published
  • By L. Cunningham
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

On March 14, the 55th Civil Engineer Power Plant team received an alarming call – flood waters had surpassed the base perimeter and showed no signs of slowing.

Michael Morrow, 55th CES power production supervisor, along with his team, began preparations on a contingency plan.  They needed to safely shut off power to all buildings in the flood path as the waters slowly encroached on the southeastern side of the base.

The following day, the water continued to rise and the plan was set into motion. Morrow immediately called in two-person crews to start the electrical flood plan shutdown safety procedures to not only save equipment, but save lives.

The team began phase one at 10 a.m., starting at the most southern structures.

At first glance, some building seemed fine as they were surrounded by sandbags. However, the drains running through the structures, containing cabling and pipes running, contained water.

The crews worked through phase four within the first hour, making their way towards the Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility. They quickly cut-off power to generators so when Omaha Public Power District cut power, they would not start-up in facilities under water.

The crews continued to work safely and diligently against time and the incoming waters, until the final seventh phase was completed at 4 p.m. 

Although the team completed the plan in six hours, the recovery is a much longer process. The 14–person power plant team, whose job it is to maintain and ensure safety with use of the power grid, has a long road ahead of them.

“It’s just not something where we can just flip a switch and turn it back on,” said Morrow. “Everything will have to be checked out as it could potentially kill someone and cause a lot more damage.”

The team’s current mission is assessing and inspecting all electrical components such as conduits, electrical plugs and switch gears to ensure that they are dry and useable, and to repair any damage that may have been done by the high waters. They evaluate damages to equipment two to three times a day.

The process will take, at a minimum, two weeks before they can begin to restore power to the affected areas of the base.