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Crews return from storm-ravaged East Coast
After more than two weeks on the road helping restore power to the devastated East Coast, 43 crew members returned home to Texas.
Two crews from Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP) left Texas Oct. 28 and 30, respectively, as part of a nationwide mutual assistance effort. The first team made repairs in Maryland before the two teams combined and moved to work in New Jersey, which was struck particularly hard by the hurricane.
"We're very proud of the work our employees completed on the East Coast," said Neal Walker, president of TNMP. "Our teams made repairs - and did so safely - to enable power to be restored to countless numbers of customers. The feedback we've received from those customers has been tremendous."
Richard Baker, a project leader, works out of the Lewisville Construction Center and was one of the crew members who travelled more than 1,100 miles to Baltimore, Md. and New Jersey. Baker's team arrived in Maryland one day after Super Storm Sandy hit the East Coast, knocking out power for millions of residents. While in Maryland, Baker's team was part of an effort that restored power to approximately 500,000 people.
From Baltimore, Baker's team travelled to Jackson, N.J. where they were staged at a Six Flags parking lot filled with tents.
"We were given breakfast, a box lunch and staged there so people could fill up their trucks at night," Baker said. "We didn't have electricity for the first five days we were there, and the other group didn't have power for seven days. While we were without power, we lost contact with outside world and could understand how resident felt not knowing what was going on."
The teams were staged just one block away from the Atlantic Ocean, near Spring Lake, N.J.
"We could see that the New Jersey boardwalk was completely decimated. The locals said Jersey Shore would never be the same. We could see wood from their shore line floating in the ocean, and one neighborhood, which was one mile away from the ocean, was flooded with four feet of water. Huge trees were uprooted, their root system is not like in Texas, so there were trees everywhere," Baker said. "That's a big cause of their problems. They have bundle conductors so the trees can grow up with no problems, but it causes problems when they're uprooted. This area was a lot worse than Baltimore."
Everyday, TNMP crew members left the staging area at 5 a.m. to get their orders for the day. Jersey Central Power and Light employees ran the staging area and were responsible for distributing crews where needed.
"It was quite a feet to get our equipment to where it was needed, but once we got there, we knew how to work on the electrical. We kept in the area we were told for safety reasons. This was New Jersey's call, we were just there to help," Baker said. "They wanted to completely fix a circuit before moving on to another one, which is different than what we do, but no company is going to go against what another company wants. We would stay out in the field until 8 or 9 p.m."
The TNMP crews helped with the replacement of distribution poles and transformers, repairing downed electrical lines, running new services and repairing transmission structures.
Baker, a Texas native, said his first trip to the East Coast was a surprise.
"Being a Texan, you hear stories of people being rude up north, but people were so nice. They brought us food and coffee. When they found out we were from Texas, they couldn't believe we drove so far to help them. They were so grateful," Baker said. "It was quite an experience. One night more than eight inches of snow fell. It got really cold at night."
This was Baker's third trip to a storm-ravaged area. He said it takes a cooperative effort to get organized and get materials in. He said it's one huge project that many take part in.
"It's always gratifying to go and help people with devastation. I couldn't ask for more pleasant people," Baker said. "People were a lot more patient than I thought they would be. We were treated with the upmost respect, and people understood that it takes time to restore all power."
TNMP is a member of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, which coordinates mutual assistance efforts following natural disasters. Even before the storm 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.
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