Florida residents grateful to city crews post-Irma

Published 7:55 pm Monday, November 20, 2017

Over the years, power crews from areas outside Washington and North Carolina helped restore power after hurricanes. This year, Washington crews returned the favor.

In September, Washington Electric Utilities employees traveled to Bartow, Florida, to help restore power knocked out by Hurricane Irma. Those employees were recognized for their work during the City Council’s Nov. 6 meeting.

“First of all, I’d like to thank the city and City Council for letting us go down there and help in hurricane relief with Hurricane Irma,” said Jeff Clark, WEU director. “We were down there … for 10 days, and these guys actually put in 160 hours in those days. The response we got from the local people around there was really incredible. … They actually looked after us.”

Clark said one woman would pick up the employees’ dirty laundry, wash it and return it with a note thanking them for their services.

“I’m still getting notes from people down there with connections to our area,” Clark said, noting that a woman who prepared breakfast for them every morning has a cousin in Belhaven.

Bartow is the county seat of Polk County, where about 80 percent of the county was without power as a result of Irma, which also caused at least one water-treatment plant to shutdown, and several sewer pump stations were without power.

At its September meeting, the City Council unanimously authorized the city crews 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 sent similar crews to other areas in Florida. ElectriCities is 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.

At the September meeting, Clark told the city officials the expense to send the city crews — power linemen and tree-trimming crews — to Florida would be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

City Manager Bobby Roberson said four crews from eastern North Carolina — each from an ElectriCities member — were assigned to Bartow to restore power.


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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