Mutual Aid Crews Scheduled to Return Home

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Mutual Aid Crews Scheduled to Return Home

September 18, 2017

Minnesota municipal electric linemen who answered the ‘mutual aid’ call in the wake of Hurricane Irma have done exceptional work, by all accounts, and are scheduled to leave for home tomorrow morning (Tuesday, Sept. 19).

Over the course of a week and a half the crews traveled halfway across the continent and took part in one of the largest power restoration efforts in U.S. history.

The 44 men, with a variety of equipment, left Rochester for Florida on Saturday, Sept. 9. After traveling and spending a day in Georgia riding out the storm’s remains, the crews arrived in Kissimmee, Fla., on Sept. 12. At the height of Irma’s destruction, 38,000, or 53 percent, of the Kissimmee Utility Authority’s 72,000 customers lost power.

On Sept. 14, KUA reported that it completed power restoration to customers that were able to safely receive power. KUA crews were aided by mutual aid crews from Indiana, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin.

“We appreciate the patience of our customers and are grateful for our employees and mutual aid crews who worked tirelessly during our 75-hour restoration effort,” said KUA president and general manager Jim Welsh.

While KUA crews left on the afternoon of Sept. 14 to assist the Orlando Utilities Commission, the Minnesota crews left central Florida and traveled 160 miles to Lake Worth, just south of West Palm Beach on the Atlantic coast.

In Lake Worth, the Minnesota crews worked tirelessly and continued to receive high praise.

MMUA Job Training and Safety Director Mike Willetts, Minnesota’s point man on the effort, said, “I received one report saying, ‘Can we request the Minnesota crews the next time we have a storm?’ You guys are the best we have ever seen.”

“That’s just awesome,” Willetts said. “There’s no other word for it!”

Among the problems encountered were numerous portable generators. Safety, testing and grounding were key considerations on every worksite. In addition to the electrical hazards, the linemen also encountered a variety of wildlife, including alligators, snakes, killer bees and other local hazards.  

The big picture

As of Sept. 15, the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) reported that 141,000 public power utility customers remained without power--approximately 10 percent of the state’s total municipal electric utility customers. More than 659,000 public power utility customers have had their power restored, FMEA noted, and many more were restored over last weekend.

Progress was slow in Key West, which did not have the resources or facilities to handle an influx of crews, but by this time Public Power was beginning to look at how it could best help other segments of the electric utility industry. Mutual aid efforts are also underway to assist the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the Virgin Island Water & Power Authority:

The Department of Energy reported Sept. 15 that there were 1.7 million outages in Florida, 93,000 out in Georgia, and 94,550 out in Puerto Rico.

Municipal utilities participating in the Irma-related mutual aid come from Alexandria, Anoka, Austin, Brainerd, Chaska, Elk River, Grand Rapids, Moorhead, Missouri River Energy Services, New Ulm, Owatonna, Redwood Falls, Rochester, St. James, Shakopee, Sleepy Eye, Marshall Municipal Utilities and MMUA.



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