Today starts with an attempt to find a still-flooded area of Bonita Springs, Florida, but in the attempt, I find a makeshift staging area in a Home Depot parking lot for crews from Centerpoint Energy out of Houston, here to provide mutual aid to Florida Power & Light for Hurricane Irma power restoration.
What makes this particularly interesting is that the crews here have been working non-stop on hurricane relief and power restoration for the past 11 or 12 days, including, of course, days of travel from Texas to Florida. Today the crew is just getting its instructions and directions for trouble spots — it’ll be mostly about downed wires today; pole setting or re-setting has largely been done. I follow one crew to the backyard of a house with dense vegetation, and a line that is out with three trees leaning into it. Just getting to the spot with bucket trucks is hard enough, but all the rain has also made footing in the backyard treacherous at best. The heat and humidity of South Florida is already creeping in, too, and it’s only 10 a.m. Yet the Centerpoint crew — along with a tree trimming crew — show no signs of dampened morale. Clearly they are here to do a job, and are completely focused on that.
Then I get a call from Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), which has also had mutual assistance crews in Florida for nearly a week now. I run up to the Punta Gorda area, to watch a KCP&L crew re-establish service (restore power) on three primaries downed by trees. The roadside primaries are joined by perpendicular secondaries, and the most time-consuming task of this job is for the crew to drive through rather swampy service roads to get to houses that are set back quite a distance to make sure there are no downed lines there; when they make the primary “hot” again, nothing on the secondaries can be allowed to short, or it may blow switches back onto the primary. Another interesting facet of this work; the main road borders a rather swampy area that is now flooded nearly up to the road height, and there is almost no doubt alligators about.
All that said, as with Centerpoint, I do not hear a single complaint about the work, and once the primary “goes hot” without incident, they are off to the next trouble spot. Just a small glimpse of the outstanding work these crews do, far from the creature comforts of home, without nearly the fanfare or recognition they deserve.