By David Kligman
Several of America’s biggest, publicly traded companies helping in relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy were honored during the ringing of the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange today (Nov. 8).
That included PG&E, and one of its 270 employees helping to restore power in New York City and on Long Island. (Watch the closing bell ceremony.)
Tim Bedford, a restoration and control manager based in West Sacramento, joined representatives from Coca-Cola, FedEx, Home Depot, Lowe’s, UPS, Wal-Mart and the wedding planning company behind The Knot. At exactly 4 p.m. Eastern time, they cheered with the brass bell ringing, a tradition that dates to the 1870s.
PG&E was invited not only because the utility volunteered to help restore power to the region but for its $50,000 donation to the American Red Cross to support those in need after the massive Hurricane Sandy swept across the Eastern seaboard last month. This year, the utility has committed $2.5 million to help communities in Northern and Central California become disaster-ready.
“It was a lot of fun and pretty cool,” said Bedford, a 24-year PG&E veteran. “The movies make it seem bigger, I’ll tell you that. Just having the opportunity to be recognized for supporting the area was huge.”
While Bedford was PG&E’s representative on the podium, three other crew members were invited to view the bell ringing ceremony from the stock exchange floor: Salinas troubleman Steve Harris, Stockton associate distribution engineer Roy Gaebel and Merced lineman Blair Martin.
Hard at work restoring power
Meanwhile, PG&E’s contingent remained hard at work to restore power after the Oct. 29 storm, which killed more than 100 people and knocked out power to millions. Crews from throughout PG&E’s service area flew out of Sacramento in several waves over the past week.
More than 150 PG&E electric workers are in Queens restoring power for Con Edison customers and another 100 or so workers are in Long Island turning lights back on for Long Island Power Authority customers.
PG&E crews have been on the ground for six days now and have restored power to more than 17,000 customers.
On Wednesday, a Nor’easter in New York and New Jersey caused further issues for utilities. Many customers had regained power only to lose it again in the latest storm, which pummeled the region with rain and wet snow, downing trees and power lines.
Long Island Power Authority reported nearly 200,000 customers without power following the latest storm. Con Edison said it was now trying to restore service to about 120,000 customers in New York City and Westchester County.
For the PG&E crews, the new storm came just as they were getting into a routine to quickly restore outages. Customers out of power for more than a week have treated the crews like heroes.
‘There were people hugging us’
“Each day we get more and more customers energized,” Selma troubleman John Sylvester told Currents on Wednesday. “This morning has been the most inspirational. We simply reset a tripped self-protected transformer, energizing 80 customers. Everyone went crazy with joy. There were people hugging us.”
The hours are long and the work is hard. But PG&E’s crew, which includes damage assessors, troublemen, safety specialists and line workers, isn’t complaining—even after the latest round of winter-like weather.
Each night after their 16-hour shifts, they’re bused to a hotel where they talk about their day and call loved ones back home in California.
“Everyone seems to be in good spirits,” Davis lineman Anthony Vasconez said. “We are back here together, fed and in a warm bed every day so we can focus on our safety and helping New York get back their power.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.