Ten Years Later, Lessons Learned From the "Super Derecho"

May 8, 2019

Radar image of the May 8, 2009 "Super Derecho"
Credit National Weather Service

Ten years after the devastating May 8, 2009 Super Derecho, utility companies in this region say they're working from lessons learned. 

Tina Gibbs with Ameren Illinois says ten years ago, crews faced treacherous conditions as they tried to restore power to more than 75,000 customers.
 
"I mean, guys were wading in water up to their chests, just because of the depth of water in the locations that some of these electric services were located that they needed to get to."
 

Credit Ameren Illinois

And while some of the devastation couldn't be avoided in such a tremendous storm, Ameren's Brian Bretsch says new smart technology allows crews to be more efficient.
 
"They'll pinpoint where that tree limb fell, they'll still send a lineman out to check everything out and make sure that the line was not damaged. And if it is, the power will be restored to all those customers except in that little section where the line is damaged."
 
Bretsch says preparation is key in severe weather - and Ameren is using lessons learned in 2009 to help be ready for the next disaster.

Preparedness tools for the utility include a command center in Decatur, Illinois - a central location for their territory statewide - as well as a working relationship with companies that provide base camp supplies when crews are needed in a remote area.

Supplies wait for crews at the basecamp in Marion in May of 2009. The camp was not just for power restoration - it also served as a place for linemen to sleep, eat, and clean up.
Credit Jennifer Fuller/WSIU

Experts say for residents and business owners, having an emergency kit that includes water, medicine, cash, and other supplies is critical - and they also recommend keeping electronics charged whenever possible - just in case the power goes out unexpectedly.
 

In addition, people who rely on life-sustaining equipment like oxygen machines should register with their utility - so that they can be placed on a priority list in restoration efforts.