In April, a series of deadly storms ripped through the Southeast, spawning tornadoes. One of the areas hardest hit was northern Alabama and Mississippi. Utility Tennessee Valley Authority‘s service area was hit hard, President and CEO Thomas Kilgore said at the Nuclear Energy Assembly in Washington, D.C.
A total of 153 tornadoes were reported in the area, downing 139 transmission towers and taking 330 more out of service. Nearly all TVA customers in the region lost power, Kilgore said. Some had power because certain lines were untouched, but the entirety of Huntsville, Ala., was dark.
“When you lose a city the size of Huntsville, that’s not a good day,” Kilgore said. “But we were dealing with something that was unprecedented.”
Kilgore said manufacturing plants called for power to be restored to them first, but the company wanted power restored first to hospitals, then residents, before factories came back. He spoke about employees whose homes were damaged or lost but still came to work to get the area back online.
TVA knew how to deal with adversity based on previous incidents. In December 2008, an incident at a TVA coal plant in Tennessee damaged the ecosystem and nearby homes, teaching the company how to operate when a disaster strikes.
Kilgore said the company learned to be open with the public, because allowing transparency is better than letting people speculate. TVA applied this lesson in March, when radiation concern spread after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan began to overheat. The company opened up to the media its Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama. Officials took members of the media through the plant and explained functions to them. Kilgore said the goal was to help the media, and thereby the public, better understand the Japanese crisis, hopefully alleviating fear.