Written by PETER KUEBECK, Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 23 November 2012 09:39
PERRYSBURG - A small group of specialists is called in the wake of a catastrophe to bring light back to the darkness.
|File photo. Utility workers from around the country load up their trucks at the Garden State Plaza parking lots to start their shifts to restore power to North Jersey after Sandy in Paramus, N.J. (AP Photo/The Record (Bergen County NJ), Tariq Zehawi)
Sounds like the far-out plot of a Hollywood movie, right?
For more than 60 workers with U.S. Utilities in Perrysburg, it was reality as they spent three weeks on the eastern seaboard restoring power after the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy.
"We took 18 crews," said Sheri Beard, Rudolph, who was among those sent to New Jersey to help restore power. "We have roughly 60 men, including me."
The group was literally pulled off of a job building a line on Lemoyne Road for Toledo Edison, owned by First Energy, and rerouted east.
"And all that area up there that was so devastated was also owned by First Energy. So First Energy pulled us off this job here and sends us there."
Workers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - Beard is a member with Local 245 in Rossford - from all across the country were brought in, including from Michigan, Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida. The local crews drove their trucks to the Canton area, where they picked up five more crews and overnighted, before heading to New Jersey, which they reached Oct. 28.
They worked approximately 50 miles from where the eye of the storm came ashore.
There was "a lot of devastation," she said.
"It was a disaster," said Aaron Lerch, Bowling Green, also a lineman with U.S. Utilities. "I've seen power lines, poles on top of cars, transformers on top of cars. Boats in people's front yards 500 feet off of shore. There were power lines down everywhere, trees down everywhere. Roads blocked off."
More than 80 percent of the state was out of power, he said.
"We just got in there and worked everywhere until we got it back on."
Beard noted that of 5,700 utility poles in the area, half of them were destroyed. The crews worked 16-hour days without a day off to get the power on, living out of the local Six Flags theme park in Jackson, N.J. They returned Friday.
The crews began working on transmission and distribution issues, and then continued working to get power supplied to people's homes.
"Most generally, all of the people were very welcoming," Beard explained, recounting the tale of one young couple who saw her go into a gas station and hugged her when she came out "and said 'Thank you so much for being here.'"
The crews worked in Jackson, Lakewood, Howell, Freehold, and other cities in that state.
"I feel really good," she said. "I'm probably going to go back and work some more. We may send some more crews to help out for the cleanup."
"They were totally devastated. I don't know how anyone could prepare for a storm like that," she continued.
"Everybody got along and worked great," said Superintendent David Bobbitt. "(we) were out there almost three weeks. Long hours and everybody came home safe."
"Couldn't ask for a better result, and glad to be home."
Last Updated on Friday, 23 November 2012 12:35