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December 7, 2012
Southwestern Helps Restore Power After Hurricane Sandy

Southwestern Aids Sandy Recovery
Line crews from Southwestern repair
distribution lines in Tom's River, New Jersey,
following Hurricane Sandy.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in early November 2012, Southwestern Power Administration sent several line, substation, and right-of-way brush crews and 30 pieces of heavy equipment to help restore the electrical grid along the coast of New Jersey near where the storm made landfall.

At the request of the Department of Energy and under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), personnel from Southwestern's maintenance facilities in Gore, Oklahoma; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Springfield, Missouri, mobilized on November 2, 2012, to join crews from Western and Bonneville power marketing administrations (PMAs) to assist FirstEnergy Corporation in some of the hardest hit areas of the Garden State. The Southwestern team, including 13 linemen, 10 equipment operators, and eight substation electricians, as well as management and logistics personnel, met up in Effingham, Illinois, and traveled to New Jersey in a mile-long convoy of boom trucks, bucket and line trucks, and other vehicles, including two pole trucks carrying 26 sixty-foot wooden poles.

"Our mission was to provide any assistance requested of us by FEMA," says Carlos E. Valencia, Director of the Division of Maintenance, who led Southwestern's team. "Even before we arrived, and especially during the recovery efforts, we had daily conference calls with representatives from FEMA, Bonneville, Western, and FirstEnergy, regarding the directions to follow and the safety and progress of our crews."

Team of Men on High Voltage Structure
Southwestern and Western crews scramble up a transmission structure
to repair a 230-kilovolt line damaged
by the storm.

Once in New Jersey, Southwestern was directed to report to Tom's River township near Lakehurst to repair distribution systems and help restore power to the barrier islands that took the brunt of the storm.

"The barrier islands were the most devastated areas," says Valencia. "We worked alongside the other PMAs to perform line patrols and install and repair poles. There are six substations on the island there and some had been under water, so our right-of-way crews helped with cleaning out gravel, mud, and other debris."

Jonesboro Craft Superintendent Kenny Broadaway noted that the area was off limits to the general public. "The islands were only open to emergency personnel and FEMA crews. There was a single 34.5-kilovolt line to the island that was severely damaged, with poles leaning into other objects, broken off, or simply washed away. We had to get that line back up before they'd let the residents back in."

Southwestern carried out its assignments under a variety of challenging conditions, including working on a live 230-kilovolt line near Tom's River to replace insulators. Valencia notes, however, that safety was everyone's paramount concern. "Administrator Chris Turner wanted to make sure that we continued to follow Southwestern's safety guidelines. We conducted all of our work in a safe manner and held our safety meetings every morning. Safety was and is our number one priority."

When the FEMA contract ended on November 9, 2012, Southwestern stayed on under contract with FirstEnergy to provide further assistance as needed. The work ended November 13, 2012, and Southwestern's employees were all home by November 16, 2012.

"Southwestern received some great compliments from both FEMA and FirstEnergy on our quality of work and how efficiently we do our job," says Valencia. "I am very proud of our crews. We traveled over 4,000 miles, provided 110% to the customers – FEMA and FirstEnergy – and brought our crews home safe and sound. The mission was a success."

Team of Men on High Voltage Structure
The Southwestern team gathered for safety meetings at the staging grounds
in New Jersey on each morning of the restoration effort.


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