CU mobilizes electric crew ahead of storm

By RICK NORTON Associate Editor and LARRY BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 9/8/17

In anticipation of potentially devastating damage to electric grids in Florida from Hurricane Irma, Cleveland Utilities early this morning dispatched an emergency line crew to Gainesville.

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CU mobilizes electric crew ahead of storm

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In anticipation of potentially devastating damage to electric grids in Florida from Hurricane Irma, Cleveland Utilities early this morning dispatched an emergency line crew to Gainesville.

By early today, Irma’s outer rings were approaching the southern tip of the state.

According to updates from the National  Hurricane Center at 5 a.m., Irma had been downgraded from a Category 5 hurricane to a 4; however, NHC continued to caution the storm is “extremely dangerous.”

According to NHC specialists, landfall in southern Florida is expected sometime around 3 to 4 a.m. on Sunday. At that time, it is still projected to be a Category 4 storm.

According to the NHC report, “The worst of the winds and storm surge are projected near Marathon and Key Largo, but Miami and heavily populated southeastern Florida are still on the strongest side of the storm.”

NHC indicated as of early this morning Irma was tracking 55 miles northwest of Great Inauga Island in the Bahamas, which sits almost 500 miles southeast of Miami. Reportedly, the storm was moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

In keeping with its tradition of providing emergency aid to other communities in times of need — especially since the tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011, in which five twisters ripped through Bradley County — Cleveland Utilities made the decision to send the electric crew in advance of the approaching hurricane.

Tim Henderson, CU president and CEO, confirmed today the four-man crew — which represents 95 years of collective experience — is making the trip with a bucket truck equipped with a 65-foot boom and a digger derrick line truck to assist Gainesville Regional Utilities in preparing for restoration efforts to the region’s electric grid.

“The request for assistance originated through the American Public Power Association (APPA) from the governor of Florida and FEMA to help identify mutual-aid crews that would be willing to deploy and/or pre-stage prior to the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Irma on Saturday,” Henderson said.

Cleveland Utilities was contacted by the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association (TVPPA), which coordinates with the 154 Local Power Companies (LPCs) within the Tennessee valley. Expenses are reimbursed through a mutual-aid agreement with the hosting utility.

Before their departure, Henderson talked with the emergency crew — whose members volunteered for the assignment — and asked them what it meant personally to be a part of this kind of relief team.

Their answers were made available in a media statement today to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

Anthony Hicks (lineman) said, “Restoring power for those outside our territory, and lending a helping hand to others, is a humbling experience,” Anthony Hicks, a CU lineman, said.

Nathan Davis, also a lineman, agreed, “It’s a great feeling to be able to help people.”

Another lineman, Barry Marshall, said, “This opportunity provides the chance to bless someone.”

Line Foreman Ernie Cannon added, “It’s an opportunity to be able to pay back the assistance we (CU) received in 2011, from the devastating tornadoes.”

Also making the trip is Line Section Supervisor Mike Isham, who said, “There is pride in helping others return to a sense of normalcy after a disaster such as this.”

Henderson explained emergency utility crews, who arrive from out of community or out of state, generally stay in a designated area “... until the hosting utility has recovered to the point of being able to establish their own sustainability.”

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