Columbus and other Southern New Mexico residents went without TV, internet and air-conditioning from Sunday night until Monday afternoon. The culprits were two 69k volt transmission poles knocked down by high winds, rain and subsequent flooding. At its peak, approximately 12,000 consumers in a 7,000 square mile radius were without power.
The two main transmission poles that power the Columbus substation for the Columbus Electric Co-op (CEC) were knocked down in a strong gale force windstorm. According to the National Weather Service’s preliminary report, winds out of Deming were at 55mph, with some locals estimating hurricane level gusts of up to 70mph in the Columbus region.
Access to the two poles, located at the base of the Florida Mountains, was hindered by flood damage. Roads were washed away, requiring maintenance crews to spend six hours rebuilding pathways to get to the downed towers.
Initial crews traveled out by ATV to assess the damage. After roads were rebuilt, repair equipment was transported to the site and the slow process of re-anchoring the towers could begin. “It’s a rocky area. We used pressure diggers with diamond bit augers,” said Chris Martinez, Executive Vice President of CEC. “Digging through rock is time consuming—it takes time and pressure.”
CEC called in additional contractors to help with the work of restoring power, including Gila Cut-Out and WSI Southwest, Inc. Teams covered the 7,000 square miles of CEC’s territory to repair downed lines and restore or replace 20 standard power poles. By 3pm almost all consumers had their power restored.
CEC encourages consumers to follow their Facebook page for the most up-to-date information on outages, programs and upgrades.