By David Kligman
PG&E trucks and equipment began arriving in New York today (Nov. 1) and utility electric crews received safety instructions as they prepared to restore power to tens of thousands of customers following Hurricane Sandy.
PG&E earlier this week flew 150 electric employees from Sacramento to New York to assist fellow utility Con Edison.
The crews arrived early Wednesday. Later that day they met with electric-operations personnel from Con Edison to discuss safety issues and overall work procedures.
The team originally was going to work in Westchester County. Once Con Edison learned of the expertise of PG&E’s workers, they diverted them to the state’s hardest hit areas—Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. They’ll begin working 16-hour shifts – with eight hours off in between – starting Friday.
Prepared for any situation
John Sylvester, a PG&E troubleman based in Selma in Fresno County, said the New York utility often deals with contractors who are limited in the work they can do. Not so for PG&E, he said.
“We can work any voltage — hot or dead,” Sylvester told Currents in a phone interview this afternoon. “There’s no construction we can’t deal with.”
Live wires are described as “hot” by electric workers and those that aren’t energized are called “dead.”
Bringing such a large contingent of PG&E workers and the needed trucks and equipment to a location that’s more than 2,000 miles away required logistical precision. More than 60 trucks, including PG&E’s mobile command center, were transported to the East Coast to aid in the restoration—including large trucks driven by mechanics and smaller bucket trucks arriving by flatbed semi. The cross-country drive took 55 hours.
About 900,000 Con Edison customers were without power following the storm. As of this morning, Con Edison said about 650,000 of its customers remained without power in New York City and Westchester County. The New York utility said it expects to bring back power to most of its customers by Nov. 10-11. Power could be restored to the remaining customers the following week, Con Edison said.
The massive storm, which struck the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend, has resulted in 75 deaths, according to media reports. More than 8 million customers lost power and more than 4 million remain in the dark.
Ready to get to work
PG&E employees could be in New York as long as three weeks.
The work can’t start soon enough for the PG&E team, which includes line workers, safety personnel and damage-assessment personnel. They represent all areas of PG&E’s service territory—from Bakersfield to Eureka.
Sylvester said he has seen a lot of downed trees and wire. Con Edison has said crews have had to contend with more than 100,000 downed lines, blocked roads and flooding.
“The anticipation makes you go crazy,” Sylvester said. “It’s hard to wait to go to work. We’re used to getting to work right away.”
Meanwhile, many of the hundreds of comments posted to PG&E’s Facebook page includes notes of gratitude and well wishes from family members and others across the country.
“Thank you,” wrote one woman from Brooklyn. “We need your help. Many people do not have power. It looks like they may not have power for several days, possibly a week or longer. Your hard work and expertise will be appreciated.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com