Personnel and equipment from Gulf Power Company will assist in the restoration of electricity in the wake of Hurricane Laura.
The contingent is scheduled to leave Pensacola Thursday morning, according to Sarah Gatewood at the utility.
“We have identified Gulf Power employees and contractors that can head west to help with power restoration after Hurricane Laura passes through,” Gatewood said.
In all, about 180 people from Gulf Power are forming the first wave leaving Thursday for east Texas.
“They’ll be bringing their line trucks; they’ll make sure they have bucket trucks so they can reach the top of the poles to put in the lines and transformers,” said Gatewood. “If the utilities have special requests they will make those, so that we can make sure that we have anything that they might need us to bring.”
Such an out-of-service-area project is formed in part through coordination with utilities in areas that are in the direct path of the storm.
“Then other utilities like Gulf Power – who know that they’ll be able to support – we’ll let them know how many of our own employees and contractors that we can provide and support,” Gatewood said. “While still making sure that we have enough people to keep our lights on here at home.”
Supervisors across Gulf Power work together to determine who, and how many, crew members are sent to assist other utilities, says Gatewood.
“And then also work with those crews and make sure they’re able to travel,” said Gatewood. “Because it is long days and time away from your family; so we understand that they have responsibilities as well. So we work across all of our employees to support other utilities in their time of need.”
And, depending on the needs that develop in east Texas, a second Gulf Power crew would be ready to deploy. But Gatewood says the sheer numbers could make that unnecessary.
“Our sister utility down in south Florida is sending several hundred of their own employees and contractors to Louisiana and Texas,” said Gatewood. “There are a lot of utilities that are headed that way to help. We’ll be there for as long as we need; if that means we have to rotate in another crew, we’ll have to look at that, at that time.”
Safety concerns are being ratcheted up, to deal with both the normal hazards after a storm, and with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not only are they traveling to an area that they don’t normally work on, but it is an uncertain time for all of us right now,” Gulf Power’s Sarah Gatewood said. “Because we want everyone to come home in the same condition in which they leave here [Thursday]. So, we just keep safety top of mind.”
This crew heads to Texas, just as a 120 line workers and contractors return from New Jersey, where they were helping restore power knocked out by Hurricane Isaias.