Minnesota electric cooperatives mobilized line workers to assist crews in restoring power in parts of Florida that are being ravaged by Hurricane Irma.
Fourteen line workers from six Minnesota electric cooperatives departed from Minnesota on Sunday, September 10. They worked in Florida for over one week.
Minnesota cooperatives sending crews were:
- Lake Region Electric Co-op, Pelican Rapids
- McLeod Co-op Power Association, Glencoe
- Meeker Cooperative, Litchfield
- Minnesota Valley Electric Co-op, Jordan
- Stearns Electric Association, Melrose
- Todd-Wadena Electric Co-op, Wadena
Minnesota Rural Electric Association coordinated with the Florida Electric Cooperative Association, which has seventeen member electric co-ops within the state.
These Minnesota crews headed to Suwannee Valley Co-op (SVEC) in Live Oak, Florida. They arrived on Tuesday, September 12. SVEC maintains over 4,300 miles of electric distribution lines in northern Florida, near the Georgia state line.
McLeod Co-op Power linemen Grant Miller and Brad Hundt had three long days on the road travelling to SVEC. The last day of travel from Mississippi to Live Oak, Florida was supposed to be a seven-hour drive and it took 14 hours due to backed-up and congested highways with all of the Floridians who had evacuated trying to get home after officials began allowing them back into their communities.
McLeod’s linemen worked 6 AM to 8 PM daily for most of the eight days they did restoration work on SVEC’s project. One night they worked until 9:30 PM. They said that Suwannee Valley Co-op took care of them with a breakfast each morning that included grits. They were sent off with a packed lunch in an insulated lunch bag and they had a supper waiting for them after 8 PM when they got back in. They were also fortunate that SVEC could put them up in local hotel accommodations that had power, so a hot shower and comfortable night’s sleep awaited them after their 14+ hour days. This Co-op had gone through other hurricanes in recent years so they had some experience with managing mutual aid crews and they had all of the basics covered for the crews.
SVEC had 22,000 of their 25,000 customers without power after Hurricane Irma hit. Grant Miller, a MCPA line foreman, explained that SVEC worked to get their substations back up first. They paired each line crew with a SVEC employee and took responsibility for one feeder out of the sub. They worked on the same area daily, working out from the feeder to line outages and eventually individual outages.
They said the co-op members in Florida were very grateful and showed them southern hospitality. Many people gave them water, Gatorade, or food.
The crew said SVEC followed the same safety rules and grounding practices that our guys follow. They covered those safety instructions with crews before they began work, and also reminded them to be on-the-lookout for poisonous snakes, and a variety of spiders. They cautioned crews walking in the woods or through ditches to watch the ground for dangers. One of the guys working with Grant and Brad had a Copperhead snake cruise by right next to him.
MCPA was grateful to have our linemen back home safe and sound. We thank them for volunteering to go down and help. MCPA and other mutual-aid co-ops are reimbursed labor some expenses by the Co-op that they help.
McLeod Co-op Power was glad to have its Facebook page available to provide regular updates for friends and family on how the restoration effort was going while the local linemen were in Florida. McLeod Co-op Power is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.
Brad Hundt and Grant Miller were the two MCPA line workers that traveled to Florida to help restore power after Hurricane Irma.