Newberry Electric crew headed to AL to help with more than 77,000 customers without power

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 8:01 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Several South Carolina power crews are headed to Alabama to help with power restorations. This includes a five-man team from Newberry Electric Cooperative. That team left around 6 a.m., Friday, Sept. 18.

The teams will be assisting Baldwin EMC, which services about 80,000 customers. At last check, more than 77,600 of those customers are without power.

Nick Shealy is the vice president of engineering and operations with Newberry Electric Co-op. He says it’s part of a mutual aid agreement among various electric co-ops to help one another out in times of need. A crew from Newberry was just in Louisiana at the end of August helping out after Hurricane Laura.

Now, the Newberry electric company is sending a crew to Summerdale, AL, where the Baldwin EMC headquarters are located. This is about 20 miles north of Gulf Shores, AL where Hurricane Sally made landfall as a category two.

With so many outages, Shealy says power restorations could take several weeks to complete.

Foreman Garrett Felker will be leading the Newberry Electric crew headed to AL. He says he’s assisted with out-of-state projects like this as many as 10 times, and says it’s not an easy job.

“It’s just not flipping a switch. It takes process. It takes time, it takes time to rebuild the stuff, get wire back in the air, poles set, changed out, whatever needs to be done,” said Felker.

Shealy agrees that, “It’s an astronomical job ahead of them. It’s going to be very time consuming because these guys don’t know the area, first and foremost, but they know how to put up power lines. It’s very time consuming. They’re looking at four to six weeks, I would say, before they get total power restored.”

The crew will stay 10 days and then be relieved by another crew from Newberry.

The men will be living in mobile units, sleeping on cots and working 16-hour days, according to Shealy. Still, he says anytime he asks for volunteers to help with these out-of-state jobs, there is never a shortage of people willing to help.

“I ask for volunteers and I have to turn down half the people every time. As when I was on a crew, everybody wants to go help another co-op. It’s just the pride in their job. You’ve got to be born with this in your blood. That’s just the way it is to be a lineman. You want to see the lights come back on and make somebody happy.”

The men stood in a circle of prayer before heading to Alabama.

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