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Lightning damages AEC plant in Gantt

Wednesday night's severe weather caused minor problems in Covington County, with the most significant being a lightning strike at Alabama Electric Cooperative's James A. Vann Jr. Power Plant in Gantt.

At the height of the severe thunderstorm, lightning struck a step-up transformer on the plant's unit 2 at approximately 10:30 p.m., resulting in fire damage to the transformer and automatic shutdown of the plant, according to a statement from AEC.

No personnel were injured in the strike, and local emergency response agencies immediately responded to assist plant personnel in ensuring the safety of the environment and equipment, the statement said. Local law enforcement and fire departments from River Falls, Gantt, Heath and Andalusia responded.

"Everything worked well," said Cathryn Gibson, AEC spokeswoman. "Emergency procedures went accordingly. The plant was shut down, but units 1 and 3 are operational now."

With the shutdown of the plan, AEC's energy control center "dispatched additional generation resources to meet power supply demands. Damage to the plant did not result in the loss of power to AEC's member owners," the statement continued.

"We did not have any member owners report power outages," Gibson said. "We were able to immediately switch to other resources to offset the loss of the plant."

In addition to the damage at the plant, environmental concerns were addressed.

"AEC immediately enacted its spill prevention, control and countermeasures plan, which creates a coordinated effort to protect the environment from a potential oil spill." according to the statement. "The damaged transformer was filled with non-toxic mineral oil. Notifications were made to the appropriate federal, state and local environmental agencies. A remediation contractor from Pensacola, Fla., arrived at the plant site Thursday morning to further coordinate emergency spill prevention."