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Lewisville teams help recovery effort from Hurricane Sandy
Just one day after Hurricane Sandy barreled through the East Coast, teams of energy technicians departed from Lewisville to help residents left in the dark.
On Tuesday, the first wave of Texas New Mexico Power (TNMP) crew members from across Texas left Lewisville and travelled more than 1,000 to Baltimore, Md. to help with restoration of power outages. The 26-member team included 21 utility vehicles and crewmembers from throughout the state, including the Gulf Coast, Central Texas and North Texas areas.
"We've just arrived in Baltimore to help with power outages. This area didn't get the brunt of the storm, but there were still 500,000 without power," said Richard Baker, a project leader, who works out of the Lewisville Construction Center. "Now the numbers are down to about 36,000 without power."
Baker said the team clipped the Appalachian Mountains en route to Maryland, trying to arrive safely. He said they didn't see devastation until they reached Washington, D.C.
"The traffic is horrendous, and they have a lot of interstates," Baker said. "Trying to get 21 pieces of equipment through the roads here has been a challenge."
TNMP is a member of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, which coordinates mutual assistance efforts following natural disasters. Even before the hurricane hit the coast, several utilities on the East Coast were bracing for damage to its systems and requesting help, according to a release from TNMP.
"The level of assistance requested in preparation for this weather event is unprecedented," said Neal Walker, president of TNMP. "As a company with operations on the Texas Gulf Coast, we know firsthand the importance of mutual assistance crews following a weather disaster, and we welcome the opportunity to help restore power as safely and quickly as possible for another utility."
The TNMP crews are helping with the replacement of distribution poles and transformers, repairing downed electrical lines and repairing transmission structures. Crews expect to remain until East Coast power companies have a handle on the power outages.
Baker said in order to restore power to residents, the local power company must first assess the damage and attempt to get all the main circuits back on.
"The local company will rank what they need to get back on in order to get the most amount of power in the least amount of time," Baker said. "Today we put up lines and changed out cross arms in an effort to restore power."
Baker and his team leave their motel near the staging area at 5 a.m. and do not return until after 7 p.m. He said it makes for very long days, but crewmembers know what to expect before leaving for a deployment.
"People are really grateful for what we're doing. They'll stop us just to say thank you - especially when they see the Texas plates," Baker said. "I've met a lot of people today that stopped and thanked us for the help. I've never been on one of these that people aren't really grateful."
On Wednesday, a second team from TNMP departed from Lewisville on their way to Pennsylvania. The team also travelled through West Virginia before combing with Baker's team. Together, the 42-member team headed to New Jersey to help one of the most devastated areas of the coast.
"Baltimore released the first team so they could go where the need is greater. The teams are now in Jackson, N.J. at a staging point," said Eric Paul, spokesman for TNMP. "They'll be working with Jersey Central Power and Light. We've heard that Jersey Central was hit pretty hard in the storm."
According to First Energy, parent company for Jersey Central Power and Light, as of Friday, service was restored to 1.2 million of its 2.3 million customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. In Jackson, New Jersey, almost 13,000 people were still without power as of Friday. However, nearly 14,000 people's power had been restored.
Along the East Coast, reports state that 3.8 million homes are still without power. At the peak, more than 8.5 million were without power in the aftermath of Sandy. As of Friday, 74 people have died from the storm: 30 in New York, 14 in New Jersey, 11 in Pennsylvania, six in West Virginia, three in Connecticut, three in Maryland, two each in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia and one in New Hampshire.
Crews from California, Washington, Eastern Canada and Texas have crossed state and country lines to help residents.
For information on donations to Hurricane Sandy response visit www.redcross.org.
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