By Teresa Young
California and Florida are no strangers to natural disasters that can cause extensive power outages and significant damage to electric infrastructure. Providing support to other energy companies throughout the nation during major natural disasters is one of the hallmarks of the energy industry. Consistent with this commitment, PG&E is sending crews to Florida to help restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
About 125 PG&E personnel, including line workers, equipment operators, supervisors and support personnel, will fly from California to Florida on Friday (Sept. 8) as part of the Hurricane Irma response team. Crews from throughout PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area will travel to Florida as part of a mutual-aid agreement with Florida Power & Light to support restoration efforts.
Tim Moore, a Bakersfield-based general construction lineman, is used to working storms but usually in California. He has no idea what to expect in an area ravaged by a hurricane.
“This is my first time on mutual aid. I am a little bit excited to go down there and have the opportunity that we do,” said Moore. “But the aftermath will be there, and I feel bad for the people that will be displaced.”
As eager as Moore is to help out, it means leaving behind his wife and two daughters — a 4-year-old and a 6-month-old — for an unknown period of time. But he says his wife can handle things at home: “She is amazing and does everything while I’m gone.”
It will be his first time in Florida and definitely not the way he expected his first visit to the Sunshine State would unfold.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, because of the unknown,” he said.
Jamila Thigpen, a field clerk based in Stockton, is among the PG&E employees traveling to Florida. She will offer clerical support to crews by coordinating food, lodging, payroll and any paperwork.
“When the guys go on storm support, they need to have a support system behind them,” she said. “I like to be that for them to make their jobs a little bit easier.”
Although Cisco Schaaf, a Central Coast-based general construction lineman, assisted in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts in 2012, he still feels a mix of emotions as his crew prepares to leave.
“I’m nervous about what to expect, but quite honestly I’m excited to help. We all see the images on the news about what happened in Houston,” he said.
“A lot of people ask for ways to help or send food, money and clothing. I actually get to do the job that I do every day and it’s going to directly help people in another state as it does here,” he added. “It’s pretty exciting to do your job and be a part of the recovery efforts. We do our best when we come together and leave all of the differences aside to help.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Irma is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane with maximum winds of 185 mph. Irma could make landfall in Florida over the weekend. As crews gathered in Davis to prepare for the early Friday departure, they shared the importance of “being your brother’s keeper” and looking out for each other.
“Ultimately you can plan and practice and have procedures, but in the end you need to make difficult and safe decisions. It’s important to ask for help when you need it and have someone watch your back. That’s what being your brother’s keeper means. This allows you to safely tackle the challenging, hazardous tasks,” said Schaaf.
Tracy Correa Lopez, Lynsey Paulo and Tamar Sarkissian contributed to this story. Follow PG&E’s support of Hurricane Irma restoration efforts on Currents and via social media @pge4me, @pge_andrea and @pge_mayra.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.