Late last week, 17 Otter Tail Power Company linemen, service representatives, and mechanics returned from Huntington, New York, in three digger derricks, four bucket trucks, a mechanic repair truck, and two pickups. Leading their effort as foreman was Gerry Bailey, a lead lineman based at the Crookston Otter Tail division office.
While on the East Coast, they assisted National Grid, the service provider for Long Island Power Authority, with disaster recovery in the wake of SuperStorm Sandy.
According to Dan Wynn, Otter Tail Power Company supervisor of operations and training, who also made the trip, restoring power was an extraordinary effort under extreme conditions for all who lent a hand. “With the state of disrepair, getting work orders and materials was difficult,” said Wynn. “Our crews primarily repaired distribution lines and individual lines to homes and set broken poles. I’m proud of our guys for keeping their spirits up while working in tough conditions so far from home. And we look forward to applying the lessons we learned from this experience as we review our own preparedness plans.”
Bailey said that they quickly had to acclimate to their new living conditions. “We started our efforts in Bethpage, Long Island, sleeping in our trucks,” said Bailey. “We got to sleep in tents on November 6 until strong winds forced our evacuation. The next day brought heavy blowing snow as we moved to Huntington, New York. It was almost a week before we had our first shower. And we’ve definitely had our fill of sandwiches and pizza! But when you stop to think about it it’s pretty amazing that we joined more than 60,000 electrical workers in a common goal.”
SuperStorm Sandy caused more outages than Hurricanes Katrina, Andrew, and Isaac—more than any storm in our nation’s history. Dean Larson, lead lineman from Oakes, North Dakota, said that when disaster like this strikes, restoring power as quickly as possible is what it’s about in his line of work. “Sure, I’m a lineman. But I have a home and a family too," he said. "That’s what’s important. We were out there to get the lights on for people like you and me.”
When Otter Tail Power Company crews left for home on Nov. 13, 80 companies had restored power to about 99 percent of those who had been without it.