PEC linemen prep to help in Hurricane Matthew relief effort

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

Journeyworker D.J. Cagle of Pedernales Electric Cooperative participated in an infrastructure improvement project in Haiti this summer. He and his fellow lineman are on stand-by to potentially provide assistance in the relief effort in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Courtesy photo

Journeyworker D.J. Cagle of Pedernales Electric Cooperative participated in an infrastructure improvement project in Haiti this summer. He and his fellow lineman are on stand-by to potentially provide assistance in the relief effort in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Courtesy photo

JOHNSON CITY — While governors in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and now Texas have directed resources to help mitigate the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, one local utility, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, will also join the relief efforts.

As a member of the Region 6 American Public Power Association, PEC participates in emergency relief efforts with a number of other co-ops across the country, said Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts, PEC vice president of communications and business services.

“If PEC were to have an emergency like this kind of situation, we could call on our cooperative partners across the country, and they would come for us,” she said.

As damaging winds from the hurricane currently bear down on residents of the southeastern seaboard, 700 utility workers with the power association have staged in a so-called “safe zone” in Georgia to await relief orders.

PEC has committed at least eight line workers to stand by and a supervisor for that crew as well as one large bucket truck, two smaller bucket trucks, and a “backyard machine,” or tree clearer.

Crew member Ben Herrera is among Pedernales Electric Cooperative workers who might be assisting in the Hurricane Matthew relief effort in Florida in the aftermath of the storm. Courtesy photo

Crew member Ben Herrera is among Pedernales Electric Cooperative workers who might be assisting in the Hurricane Matthew relief effort in Florida in the aftermath of the storm. Courtesy photo

“Until they can assess where the damage is, where the most crews are needed, and what resources are available, we all have to sit tight so we don’t get in the way of emergency response and take up resources that the people of Florida are going to need, until we’re needed,” she said of the Johnson City-based crew.

The first wave of assistance from the utilities is expected Oct. 9-10, potentially followed by a second wave Oct. 12-13.

“The object is to assess the situation and to get the power back on so people can continue with their lives,” Clemsen-Roberts said. “Everybody has their go-bags ready. The equipment is sitting and ready to roll.”

PEC workers are no strangers to coming to the aid of those in need.

In June and July, a lineman crew spent 21 days in northeastern Haiti to volunteer their time to expand infrastructure.

“We participate in this international program where we help electrify developing nations,” she said. “Our crews having been in Haiti helping to put up lines and training crews, I think it gets really personal.”

Without hesitation, crew members are poised once again to join the relief effort even as the storm becomes a growing threat to other states such as South Carolina.

“We’re hopeful that the crews we work with and the people in the region are OK, that they’re going to rebuild. And I think watching this roll into Florida, we know how hard of a road they’re going to face,” she said. “This is the American way. We know that the services we provide are vital. They can be lifesaving.”

connie@thepicayune.com

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