March 2009

 

Frozen in time

The ice storm of ’09

When Dennis Urhahn, Yard Operations supervisor at Shawnee Fossil Plant, reported to work Jan. 26, he was gearing up for a regular shift. But he knew heavy weather was on the way.

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From the powerhouse roof, Shawnee Fossil Plant Operations manager Bobby Barrow looks at the ice build-up in the switchyard and surrounding area.

“I knew it was supposed to get slick,” he says. “But I don’t think anyone knew how bad it was going to get.”

The ice storm of 2009 ripped through much of TVA’s northwestern territory, plunging thousands of area residents and the employees at Shawnee and Paradise fossil plants into sub-zero temperatures. As the storm incapacitated western Kentucky, plant employees sprang into action to keep their co-workers and the plants safe. Many employees stayed overnight at the plant for several days in makeshift sleeping areas, eating Meals Ready to Eat and drinking bottled water.

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Shawnee Fossil Plant Yard Operations supervisor Dennis Urhahn was among the workers braving the sub-zero temperatures in western Kentucky in late January.

Downed trees and power lines around the plant affected not only the roads, but also the rail lines. In the yards at Shawnee, Urhahn and his team used an excavator to push all the fallen trees and limbs from the rail lines in order to get coal into the plant.

Anthony Tisdale, a maintenance foreman at Paradise, was one such volunteer who stayed onsite during the ice storm.

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Among the Paradise Fossil Plant employees working during the ice storm were, front row, from left, Anthony Tisdale, fossil electrician tech III; and Rob Arnett, fossil mechanic tech III; and back row, from left, Mark Norris, instrument mechanic; and Josh Eubanks, fossil mechanic tech III.

“I worried about my family,” says Tisdale. “I wasn’t able to call and check on them for a couple of days. It was tough for a lot of the guys because they knew that conditions outside the plant were bad, too. Many didn’t have power at home.”

By Jan. 29, conditions were much improved, with fresh employees coming into the plants and power restored for residents in much of the area.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the plants in this emergency situation was that despite the dangerous and harsh conditions of the ice storm of ’09, there were no recordable injuries reported as a result of the weather.