Saturday, March 28th at approximately 5 pm an EF3 Tornado touched down in Jonesboro near Browns Lanes Access Road and headed Northeast through town damaging many homes and businesses including The Mall at TurtleCreek. It caused extensive damage to planes and hangers at the Jonesboro Municipal Airport and residential areas around Prospect and Old Bridger Roads as it moved out of town and into Craighead Electric Cooperative territory.
The Farville Curve area, home to the Farville substation, Busch Agriculture Resources, Gamble Furniture, and several other businesses served by Craighead Electric were directly in the path of the storm. This location is a junction of several different utility services: Jonesboro City Water and Light distribution lines serving the West side of the road, Craighead Electric Cooperative distribution lines serving the East, an empower broadband fiber node on Clinton School Road, and Craighead Electric transmission lines feeding the substation.
The result was a tangled mess that left 2200 members without power and many more without internet service. Several poles were downed on Highway 412 east of Paragould, 20 poles were broken in the Brookland area, and transmission lines were down on both sides of Farville Curve. Thankfully, no fatalities and only a handful of minor injuries were reported, no doubt due to COVID-19-induced social distancing being practiced by the community in a typically heavily populated area of town and to the excellent coverage provided by our local meteorologists and news media.
Utility workers and first responders leaped into action to assess the damage and form a response. Craighead Electric Cooperative lineman immediately isolated the damaged lines and back-fed 1600 accounts within a few hours. Back-feeding is a process by which power is supplied from a different substation than usual, a useful capability when a substation is offline. Craighead Electric crews worked into the night to restore the remaining 600 accounts. By Sunday morning, a small army of line workers, contractors, fiber techs, and volunteers had descended on the area. By 11:00 am power had been restored to all member accounts that could receive it. At the time of writing, the last remaining internet customers are being restored and Craighead Electric Cooperative personnel are working closely with Busch Ag. to get the rice mill back up and running as soon as possible.
Craighead Electric Cooperative owes an enormous amount of thanks to those who helped pick up the pieces after this disaster: neighboring utilities and contractors who collaborated on recovery, local first responders (some of whom came from many counties away) to conduct search and rescue and control traffic, citizens who offered crews donations of food and time, and to members who were extremely patient while their services were restored.