Following almost two weeks of Hurricane Gustav work in Louisiana, Asplundh Tree Expert Co. began mobilizing several thousand employees on Sept. 14 to remove massive amounts of tree debris caused by Hurricane Ike and its remnants. These employees are assisting utilities on two major fronts where millions of electric customers were without power after the storm – one in Texas and the other in Indiana and Ohio.
Asplundh tree workers from 25 states have moved in to help local Asplundh crews clear debris from the power lines of seven investor-owned utilities: AEP in Ohio and Texas, CenterPoint Energy the Houston (TX) area, Dayton Power & Light in Ohio, Duke Energy in Indiana and Ohio, Entergy in Texas and Louisiana, FirstEnergy in Ohio, and Oncor Electric Delivery in east Texas.
The largest number of crews have been assigned to Entergy, who is still trying to recover from Gustav’s devastation in Louisiana. Following close behind is CenterPoint where Ike’s 100+ mph winds and Houston’s population density resulted in numerous electrical outages. Surprisingly, Ike still packed a nasty punch as it moved up into the Midwest, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of AEP, Duke Energy, Dayton Power & Light and FirstEnergy customers in Indiana and Ohio.
Many Asplundh crews were traveling to the danger zone as Category 2 Hurricane Ike made landfall on Sept. 13 and were almost immediately available to remove broken trees and limbs so linemen could restore power. Despite a huge influx of tree and line repair crews, it could be weeks before utilities in these states are able to return to normal operations.
“Everyone at Asplundh understands the urgent need to help utilities restore power after this disaster. Despite what seems like an unending amount of storm work, we cannot let our guard down when it comes to the safety and welfare of our employees, as well as the thousands of people affected by this catastrophe,” said Company President Scott Asplundh. “As I’ve said before, we couldn’t possibly help these devastated utilities without the amazing cooperation of our customers who released our crews to do this work in the first place -- and the wonderful support of our employees’ families.”
Asplundh has sent teams of safety supervisors to conduct daily safety briefings with employees and remind them of the hazards posed by broken trees, downed power lines and flooding. As it was after Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, Asplundh crews are working in some neighborhoods where homes have been demolished or are uninhabitable. While clearing tree debris is one of the important steps in getting life back to normal for those communities, safety must continue to be a primary concern.