Several hundred utility workers from Iowa have been among the army of workers trying to restore power to millions of people cut off after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida and Georgia this month. Mid-American Energy sent 250 employees and contractors, including 150 tree trimmers.
Twenty-six vehicles from Iowa’s Association of Electric Cooperatives are there along with 46 linemen. And Alliant Energy dispatched 200 workers and equipment from Iowa and Wisconsin.
Don Finn is a Senior Manager for Customer Operations at Alliant’s Cedar Rapids office. He says his crews have seen a lot of heartbreak. People have been dealing with oppressive heat and humidity and haven’t had air conditioning since Irma passed through the state a week and a half ago.
“Somebody would be standing there holding their baby and they’ve had it in their vehicle driving around with the air conditioning on, just to keep cool,” he says. “They’re grateful to get electricity.”
Finn says his crews have been navigating a lot of debris as they go about their work.
“There’s tile and palm fronds…out on the road,” he says. “And there’s nowhere to really park a truck. Most of the work is being done in backyards, so people are climbing over fences to do their work with their belt and hook.”
Crews also have to be careful to stay hydrated, and keep an eye out for snakes, alligators, and other creatures displaced by the floodwaters.
Finn expects to be in Florida at least until the end of the week. There’s no word yet if the workers will stay on if Hurricane Maria comes ashore in that part of the country.