By Mayra Tostado and Andrea Menniti
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After hunkering down as Hurricane Irma passed through Florida, PG&E crews got outside on Monday (Sept. 11) and went right to work.
“It was nice to get out and be able to do our job,” said Tim Moore, a Bakersfield general construction lineman. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help out some people who are in need.”
About 125 PG&E employees, including IBEW Local 1245 line workers, equipment operators, supervisors and support personnel, are in Florida, helping that state and its residents recover from Hurricane Irma.
They left California on Friday (Sept. 8), and spent the next few days making preparations for what will certainly be a massive restoration effort.
According to Florida Power & Light (FPL), 4.4 million customers lost power as a result of the hurricane. As of Tuesday morning, 1.1 million FPL customers had their lights back on. FPL says the 19,500-person restoration workforce, comprised of FPL crews, crews from other energy companies such as PG&E, and contractors, is the largest ever assembled.
On Monday, PG&E crews worked alongside FPL in two substations, and made repairs at more than 40 locations. By the end of day, they had restored three feeder lines, patrolled and assessed two more, and were assigned an additional two.
The unofficial tally for a half day of work: about 4,000 customers were restored. That work will continue today.
Moore and his fellow lineman were assigned to an area near West Palm Beach. They assessed the damage to the electrical system and made some repairs.
“Things that were easy to fix, we went ahead and fixed them,” he said. “Things that were just going to take a bit of time, we just cut those in the clear (removing a fallen line) so that we could try to get the mainline hot and pick up as many customers as fast as we could. It felt really good to get some work done.”
For Mike Accetta, a first-step apprentice lineman based in Salinas, this was the first time he had journeyed outside of California on a PG&E mutual-aid effort.
“I was asked by my supervisor if I wanted to be a part of it, and I was excited to come help,” he said. “It’s just a good experience, and I like helping other people.”
PG&E crews brought some of their own tools and personal protective equipment, but are relying on FPL trucks and their equipment to do their jobs. Accetta was impressed by what he’s seen.
“It’s a great set-up,” he said. “They really came through with the equipment and the trucks we need to get the job done.”
Residents were deeply appreciative that PG&E sent crews cross country to make repairs.
“That’s unbelievable,” said Bruce Wresnick. “That’s really appreciated. That’s quite a distance to travel and we really appreciate everything that everybody is doing. These guys are great.”
No matter where PG&E line workers do their job, the focus is on safety.
Evermary Hickey, the director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for PG&E, noted that there have been no safety incidents and no public safety issues so far.
“We continue to be determined to safely and effectively restore power to Florida,” she said. Hickey formerly worked for FPL in Florida and has years of experience responding to hurricanes.
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