City sends crew to help restore power in Florida

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A power-line crew with Washington Electric Utilities left about 6 a.m. Tuesday for Lakeland, Florida, for about two weeks to help restore power that was knocked out by Hurricane Irma.

During its meeting Monday night, the Washington City Council unanimously authorized the crew of about eight city workers to make the trip as part of an ElectriCities effort to help Florida power agencies repair electric systems damaged or destroyed by the hurricane. Several other ElectriCities members are sending similar crews to other areas in Florida, according to Jeff Clark, WEU’s director. ElectriCities, a membership organization consisting of local governments that provide power to their residents, businesses and others.

At one point during Hurricane Irma, at least 9 million people in Florida were without power, according to several estimates. It could take up to several weeks before power is fully restored throughout Florida.

“Well, in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do. … I’ve got family down there. It’s out right now,” said Councilman Larry Beeman about the city sending the crew.

“That’s right,” Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty said.

“We are our brother’s keeper,” Councilman Richard Brooks added.

Councilman Doug Mercer said he talked Monday with his brother who lives in the Tampa area. That brother said there are so many Duke Energy trucks in that area “that you can’t count them.”

Clark said Kinston, Greenville, High Point, Apex are among the ElectriCities members sending crews to Florida. “Of course, all of these costs would be covered by FEMA,” Clark noted.

Should Hurricane Jose, now in the western Atlantic Ocean, threaten eastern North Carolina, the city crew in Florida would return home, Clark assured the council.

“It’s 700 miles there. We’re hoping to get there in one day (Tuesday) — drive straight through. It’s like a 15- or 16-hour drive probably and begin work Wednesday,” Clark said.

If it takes longer than two weeks to restore power in the Lakeland area, the city likely would “swap out” another city crew, Clark said. After two weeks of that kind of work, the initial crew sent by the city would need rest, he noted.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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