Local linemen go to Florida for hurricane relief

By Sam Wildow - and Cecilia Fox

MIAMI COUNTY — Local electric crews are responding to Florida’s panhandle this week to help restore power after Hurricane Michael hit the coast on Wednesday.

Employees from the Piqua Power System are also assisting in providing mutual aid to clean-up from Hurricane Michael, including Jerry Perkins, Ken Wagner, Tyler Martin, and Kendrick Link.

“They’re taking two of our bucket trucks,” Piqua Power System Director Ed Krieger said.

Krieger, who is the chair of the mutual aid committee with American Municipal Power (AMP), said that they are responding with four other local communities in Westerville, Hamilton, Lebanon, and Tipp City, and with a total approximately of 500 other crews from across the U.S. to provide mutual aid to Florida’s panhandle during this relief effort.

The journeymen spent the night in Montgomery, Alabama, and responded to Tallahassee, Florida, on Thursday morning. They will be aiding in restoring power to the region by restoring distribution circuits, replacing broken poles, removing fallen trees from power lines, installing new cross arms, new conductors, and more.

This is their second time providing mutual aid to Florida, as other employees from the Piqua Power System responded to Homestead, Florida, to provide mutual aid after Hurricane Irma in September 2017. They have also provided mutual aid to Kentucky, West Virginia, and New York.

Krieger said that providing mutual aid is one of the most important things that they can do in this industry and that it feels very rewarding.

“Our employees love doing it,” Krieger said. He added later that providing mutual aid is a priority for the Piqua Power System and that they want to be there to help provide it.

He also said that it also helps increase their skill set and they come home more practiced. “They’re going to be better employees than when they left,” Krieger said.

It is unclear how long they will be in Florida helping to restore power. Last year, Piqua Power System employees spent three weeks providing mutual aid to Homestead.

“I’m very proud of our employees,” Krieger said.

Tipp City is also sending three employees and a bucket truck south to aid in hurricane recovery efforts. According to City Manager Tim Eggleston, the crew met up with others in Mobile, before being dispatched into the Florida panhandle.

“Normally, what we do is we have our guys go down for two weeks or so and then switch them out if we need to,” he said.

Eggleston said that Tipp City crews are only dispatched in response to a mutual aid call if it will not affect local service and if the employees volunteer to go.

“The guys love it,” Eggleston said.

He noted that all expenses associated with sending a crew are fully reimbursed through the American Public Power Association.

Eggleston said Tipp City has dispatched crews for mutual aid several times, including Hurrican Irma aid last year. A crew of Tipp City employees went to Homestead last year and was “asked to stay a week longer because they did a good job,” he added.

By Sam Wildow

and Cecilia Fox