Partnership equals power

By Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public AffairsJune 6, 2024

A row of electrical poles stand, one hanging up in the air horizontally. A street lays wet with wooden debris scattered along it.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The area between Pyongyang Drive and 72nd Street along Legends Way saw the most damage during the May 12, 2024, microburst at Fort Cavazos, though there was also powerline damage near some motor pools. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Three men in bright yellow shirts and construction hard hats look at a fallen, broken electrical pole in a patch of grass.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Dominion Energy team at Fort Cavazos was able to being work quickly after the May 12, 2024, microburst storm because they have new poles and infrastructure equipment at the ready. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
An electric pole lays on a patch of grass, it's wood snapped, broken and bent, the metal items attached to also in similar conditions.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Electric poles were broken and upended during the May 12, 2024, microburst at Fort Cavazos, resulting in 13 damaged electric poles and 22 broken ones. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

During the month of May the Fort Cavazos Directorate of Public Works and Dominion Energy proved the saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” is in fact true as weather anomalies caused destruction to the electrical system across Fort Cavazos.

Over the past decade DPW has privatized some services including electricity and natural gas with Dominion Energy in 2017.

On May 12, a microburst with 1.5- to 2-inch hail and winds gusts at a minimum of 65 mph caused more than 200 facilities to lose power at Fort Cavazos. According to the National Weather Service, a microburst is a localized column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm, usually less than or equal to 2.5 miles in diameter, where wind speeds can reach up to 100 mph or higher — equivalent to an EF1 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Brian Dosa, DPW director said the great partnership between the DPW and Dominion Energy allowed for the repairs to be made so efficiently.

“That was the worst hail storm that I’ve ever seen and experienced myself,” Dosa said. “The volume, the size and the direction of the hail was incredible. We were super blessed to have Dominion Energy as our partners so that when (the storm) happened they were able to respond quickly. I’m very proud of Kevin and his team and their ability to respond. The communication systems we have in place I think are really good as well.”

Once first responders were on the scene, DPW and Dominion Energy officials were informed of the considerable damage, including 13 damaged electrical poles and 22 broken electrical poles. In all, there were 41 locations where repairs were needed. Of the 257 facilities impacted, four were critical, three were high priority and 13 were barracks.

For some, this damage would hinder operations for days, but at Fort Cavazos the restoration teams were on site within an hour. All critical facilities were restored within 90 minutes, 95% of the overall service points were restored within four hours and the whole system was restored within 36 hours following the storm, all while prioritizing health, life and safety.

A graphic that reads, "Magnitude: 22 broken poles, 12 damaged poles, 41 total work locations, 257 service points, 4 critical facilities, 3 high priority facilities, 13 barracks impacted."
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A graphic depicts the magnitude of damage and the repair statistics from the May 12 microburst as Fort Cavazos. (Photo Credit: Graphic by Daniella Thacker, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
A graphic that reads, "Overall Service Points Restored. Recovery Timeline. 33% 1 hr. 65% 1.5 hrs. 80% 2 hrs. 95% 4 hrs. 100% 36 hrs."
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A graphic depicts the timeline of power recovery after the May 12 Microburst at Fort Cavazos. (Photo Credit: Graphic by Daniella Thacker, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“With the partnership that we’ve built here — we truly are seamless,” said Kevin M. Mann, Dominion Energy’s general manager of privatization at Fort Cavazos. “We have the ability to very quickly respond. We had an incident commander that works for Dominion Energy that was on the scene within 30 minutes, and we’re quickly providing a pathway of information to the DPW so that they can communicate it to Fort Cavazos.”

Mann said typically when events like this happen after normal business hours or on the weekend, for an installation without a utility privatization partnership, there can be a delay in response, but not for Fort Cavazos’ DPW and Dominion Energy.

“Me and (Dosa) were probably texting with his leadership and my leadership within 15 to 20 minutes,” he said. “We (Dominion Energy) are just an extension of the Directorate of Public Works. When they need something they know where to turn. When we have something happening they know we’re there, and we’re going to communicate that very well. I think that is our biggest strength.”

Mann explained all of the systems used on the powerlines are owned by Dominion Energy, and the items needed to be replaced, including the poles, transformers and wire, are housed on the installation, allowing the repairs to begin even sooner.

Dosa said the repair process would have taken significantly longer had the storm occurred before the privatization between the Fort Cavazos DPW and Dominion Energy.

“We would have had to put some contracts in place,” he said. “We could do it pretty quickly, but there’s a delay. Pretty quickly, when it comes to contracting, is maybe 18 to 24 hours before we even have somebody. Then that person’s got to get the poles and mobilize. I would imagine pre-privatization we were probably looking at a five- to seven-day outage at best.”

Mann added since the system is owned by Dominion, the DPW didn’t pick up the $700,000 – $800,000 repair bill.

“It enables the installation, for Brian and his team, to plan their budget a little more accordingly versus having this anomaly that all of a sudden impacts the finances of the installation as well. That’s one thing that is a big benefit,” Mann explained.

Dosa also praised the efforts of the Directorate of Emergency Services first responders who were the first on the scene after the damage took place.

“They’re out there on the ground, helping to control traffic and sometimes reporting. In this case they were able to see the damage and the outages within minutes,” he said. “To actually have Bob Adams’ (Deputy DES director) patrolmen that are out there on the ground, providing feedback to us and working with the incident commander is key.”

Mann agreed.

“We can’t preach that enough — what we’re able to do here,” Mann said. “I’m not 100% certain, but I would say there’s probably not many DOD (Department of Defense) facilities (and) Army installations that have this kind of partnership that works so fluidly. We both know how special it is to have this.”

Adams said the storm was a testament to the great communication and cooperation between the teams at Fort Cavazos.

“We quickly collaborated and the folks on the ground were working through their direct contacts with other organizations across Fort Cavazos with the other Directorates and Dominion (Energy) … to form a coordinated response to make sure we were covering all the areas that we needed to cover to ensure the safety of the public,” he said. “It was a bad incident where we lost power, but at the same time the good news is that we were working together very well, communicating effectively from the start and working to bring the incident to a successful close as fast as possible.”

A row of electrical poles along the left side of a wet street lay at different angles away from the street.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Before photo shoes the extensive damage from May 12 microburst in front of Howze Auditorium at Fort Cavazos. The area experienced 1.5- to 2-in. hail, as well as wind gusts as a minimum of 65 mph during the storm. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
A row of electric poles stand on the left side of a street.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – After photo shows the extensive recovery from the May 12 microburst in front of the Howze Auditorium at Fort Cavazos. The Dominion Energy was able to restore all power and fix affected electric poles in 36 hours. (Photo Credit: Photo by Blair Dupre; Sentinel News Editor) VIEW ORIGINAL

The May 12 microburst wasn’t the only storm to cause issues within the last month. A storm with very strong winds blew through May 22 causing power loss for North Fort Cavazos and small pockets of damage on the main and east cantonment including eight damaged or broken poles. There were 22 work locations with an estimated $375,000 in damage to Dominion Energy’s infrastructure. All of Dominion Energy’s service points were repaired within 48 hours of the storm.

The challenges May’s weather produced only reinforced the strong partnership between DPW and Dominion Energy.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the team, particularly Dominion,” Dosa said. “We couldn’t have been successful without them. Kevin’s leadership and his team’s hard work for 36 straight hours was pretty amazing.”

Mann agreed, saying the great relationship between the entities is a blessing that allows them to work together very easily.

“It’s very transparent,” Mann said. “There’s an easy flow of information back and forth, and we’re all aiming for the same thing. When you have that common target, it makes us pretty good at what we do here.”