Local lineworkers deployed to provide Hurricane Dorian relief

Jim Schmitt (above, left) and Mike Bader with the Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission deployed to Florida on Friday to help with Hurricane Dorian relief and areas of the southeastern coastline braces for damage from the storm which is expected to hit southern states Wednesday and continue north through the week. Schmitt and Bader joined 40 other lineworkers—for a total of 18 crews—from Minnesota as they deployed to Florida Friday morning from Rochester (below). Schmitt and Bader brought a 2009 Ford F-750 bucket truck with a 55-foot reach.

As many prepared for a long holiday weekend last Friday, lineworkers Jim Schmitt and Mike Bader with the Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission (GRPUC) were traveling to Florida to bring relief to areas in the path of Hurricane Dorian.

In anticipation of Dorian, the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) reached out to the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, as well as other utility agencies in other states, for assistance in bringing standby lineworkers to areas affected by the storm. The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council is overseeing the overall aid. Approximately 1,500 lineworkers are expected to arrive from 20 states according to the FMEA. Crews will be within distance of affected areas to help restore electrical service.

Schmitt and Bader joined 40 other lineworkers—for a total of 18 crews—from Minnesota in Rochester, Minn., as they deployed to Florida Friday morning. The two brought a 2009 Ford F-750 bucket truck with a 55-foot reach. Crews will be stationed at Kissimmee Public Utilities in Florida while they determine which specific areas need assistance and may be needed for up to two weeks.

This will be the fourth time the GRPUC has extended aide for hurricane relief.

“In 2012, Rod Ruder and Mike Bader responded to Sandy. In 2017, Mike Bader and Jim Schmitt responded to Irma. In 2018, Jake Bowers and Rod Ruder were on standby for Florence, Isaac, and Michael, but were mutual aid was not required from Minn.,” Christine Flannigan, administrative/human resources assistant for GRPUC said.

According to CBS News, the storm was a Category 5 during this past weekend and is considered a Category 2 storm as of 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Tuesday. The storm’s track is continually shifting, creating the need for locals to stay alert and properly prepare.

“The electric power industry has coordinated recovery and mutual assistance plans ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s arrival, and we are prepared to respond to extended outages around the clock as soon as it is safe to do so,” said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson. “As the storm track continues to shift, we are praying for the best and preparing for the worst.”

A press release from the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council described the threats of the slow-moving storm. The slow pace increases the chance of damaging winds, storm surges and severe flooding caused by heavy rain.

“Mutual assistance networks have deployed crews to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, and we stand ready to provide more assistance to help get the power back on in affected communities as quickly and safely as possible,” said American Public Power Association President & CEO Sue Kelly. “Ensuring the safety of customers, communities, and crews is the electric power industry’s highest priority.”

According to the Weather Channel on Tuesday at 12 p.m. Central Time, Dorian will remain over the northwest area of the Bahamas Tuesday as it moves toward the southeast coast of the United States. Georgia, South Carolina and the eastern coast of Florida have all been issued storm surge and hurricane warnings. Conditions are expected to worsen Wednesday for Georgia and South Carolina while North Carolina and southeast Virginia are expected to be impacted Thursday into Friday.

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