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Citizens frustrated over power outages

Ten days without electricity has left citizens with spoiled food and no heat. Fuel levels are running low, and emotions are running high.

Charlotte County residents have been dealing with outages stemming from a Valentine’s weekend storm that left thousands without power for more than a week.

Beth Ann Jackson, who has been helping with food and water distribution at the Keysville Volunteer Fire Department, said people are tired and worried.

“We have seen a lot of dreary faces that are exhausted from refilling water jugs,” Jackson said. “We’ve had many come in needing food because of loss from their refrigerators. They’re worried about when their lights will be on. We’ve had some come in needing just warmth for a few hours.”

Jackson said people are trying to remain as positive as possible.

“Many will smile when you ask how they are and say smiling is all they can do,” she said.

For Lisa Fortune, she and her family found themselves in the cold and dark as well. On day seven of the power outage, Fortune commented on Facebook.

“We have no kerosene, no generator. We have candles and blankets,” she said. ‘We have lost all food. I pray all the linemen will be able to restore power soon. We’re so tired of being cold.”

Thankfully, with the help of Phenix Fire Chief Walt Bailey and other members of the community, a kerosene heater was located for Fortune.

Leticia Walker said trying to feed three teenagers and take care of a young adult with heart disease was no easy task after losing all of their food and having nowhere to cook.

“Having to buy kerosene and staying at a motel for $80 a night plus buying breakfast, lunch and dinner for the last seven days is expensive,” Walker said. “It’s stressful and frustrating.”

Charlotte County Board of Supervisor member Kay Pierantoni, who represents the Red Oak Wylliesburg district, said she has seen and heard stories of citizens’ frustrations.

“There have been some heartbreaking stories the last 10 days,” Pierantoni wrote on her Facebook page. “Stories of great inconvenience, stories of danger to health, stories of frustration. People without power all these days are at the end of their rope.”

Pierantoni said at times, the frustration and anger seemed aimed at everyone connected to the electric companies because the power had not been restored.   

“I know our citizens know the linemen are doing the best they can.”

Over the past week, Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC), which serves a majority of the county, has come under fire for what some say is an irresponsible handling of the outage situation.

“A citizen suggested contacting the Board of Directors of Southside Electric Cooperative,” Pierantoni said. “It seems like a good idea.”

Several SEC customers held a protest at the company’s headquarters in Crew on Monday, Feb. 22.

Following the protest, SEC CEO Jeff Edwards released a statement concerning the issues the cooperative has had restoring power over the past 10 days.

“Power restoration efforts are complex. There is no way around that fact,” Edwards said. “Individual poles must be dragged hundreds of feet into muddy terrain to be set by hand. This work is dangerous even in the best of conditions, and the wet weather we continue to see has made for extremely hazardous conditions. We know these conditions are dangerous for you as you try to maintain a normal life without power. Our hearts break for you because we truly know what you are facing. We want to assure you that we are working as hard and fast as we can, but safety always must come first.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 23, the number of customers without power in Charlotte County was reduced from 1,712 Monday to 416.