North Texas Daily

Denton electric crew aids hurricane recovery efforts in NY

Denton electric crew aids hurricane recovery efforts in NY

November 26
23:45 2012

Jason Yang / Senior Staff Writer

They helped restore power in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

They fixed transformers and installed utility poles in Florida and along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

This month, Denton Municipal Electric aided Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts by sending 19 employees to Long Island, N.Y.

The group of certified journeymen linemen, safety personnel and supervisors left Denton at 4 a.m. on Nov. 6, returning almost two weeks later on Nov. 16.

DME, under a mutual aid agreement with the American Public Power Association, sent its employees to assist the Long Island Power Authority in restoring power in neighborhoods where millions were left without electricity.

The remaining 30 employees stayed and covered the absentees’ shifts in Denton.

“You lend a hand because you never know when you are going to need aid,” said Brad Watts, DME operations line superintendent.

The crew assisted recovery efforts in the New Hyde Park and Garden City areas, digging holes and climbing 40-foot utility poles to fix transformers, working for up to 16 hours a day.

“We got them [Long Island Power Authority] to the point where they can handle the task,” construction line superintendent Rowdy Patterson said. “What remains are either unlivable houses or individual outages that need power. We would stay if they needed us to stay.”

It took the crew three days to reach Long Island. They slept in their truck the first night in New York, but relocated to the New Hyde Park Fire Station the second night for the remainder of the trip.

About 60 volunteers stayed at the fire station, sharing one shower, overhead maintenance foreman Craig Stastny said.

Long Island residents showed their appreciation by donating food to the crew. One morning, two boxes of doughnuts and hot coffee were waiting for the crew on the back of the truck.

Whenever the crew ate at a local restaurant or diner, others would offer to pay for the meal. One thankful resident even came up to the crew’s table, talked for 30 minutes and discreetly paid the tab, Patterson said.

“It was nothing like we expected,” Patterson said. “The locals are constantly asking us if we need anything. Just a bunch of really nice people.”

A snowstorm hit while the crew was assisting with recovery efforts in New York.

Watts said it was the first time the crew went out because of a hurricane and ended up in a snowstorm. The group shut it down for the night, but continued with repairs the next day, working in 9 to 10 inches of snow.

DME spokesman Brian Daskam said its workers impressed LIPA with their versatility.

Patterson said DME employees don’t hyper-specialize because of Denton’s small population, so the repairs in New York were the “same procedure but different equipment.”

Despite spending six days driving to and back from New York, enduring a snowstorm and sharing a shower with 60 volunteers, Watts and Patterson said the generous hospitality from the local residents was enough to keep them going.

“They already gave us the best thank you. It wasn’t the coffee or donuts,” Watts said. “It was when the lights came back and the residents came out and cheered, and we are proud of that.”

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