After the Storm
Scott Over, a materials and logistics supervisor at ComEd, went down to Florida to help after Hurricane Irma
Mutual Assistance – many of us have heard the phrase. Those of us that work at energy companies are proud of when our company sends employees to help other communities in times of need. But what does it mean to be part of the crew that picks up, leaves home, says goodbye to family and friends for days – even weeks at a time?
Scott shares his story:
Everyone who goes is a volunteer. I wanted to go. I don’t have a family or kids yet, so there was nothing holding me back. This was my first time doing it, but some of the other guys that went with me had been to New York for Hurricane Sandy and Oklahoma for a tornado a few years ago.
It took forever to get there. We left Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 9, in a convoy of 150 line trucks that can only go 65 miles an hour. We arrived on Tuesday, Sept. 12, which included a full day driving through a torrential rain storm in Georgia and maneuvering through the traffic of evacuees who were trying to return to their homes.
There were trees down on the roads, roofs and siding missing from houses, windows were broken and boarded up and there were generators everywhere. There was still some flooding and so many piles of debris outside of people’s houses, on the roads, on the sidewalks. I couldn’t believe how much there was. You try to prepare yourself for what you think it’s going to be like, but when you get there, the power of Mother Nature shocks you – seeing trees that are six feet in diameter that have been completely uprooted or a two story house turned into a one story; it’s not anything like what I expected.
My team and I were specifically focused on providing material logistics for the crews. We were there for 13 days, based at the Daytona International Speedway, servicing the nearby area. We were provided a breakfast before we went out for the day, a sack lunch to take with us, and we would come back to the base for dinner before we had to go back out to work again. Thankfully, we had hotels every night and could get out of the heat at the end of the day.
We were very lucky. Some of the other crews were stationed in areas where the damage meant there was no infrastructure standing and no electricity – so there was nowhere to go for food and they slept in their trucks. Being away from the normal routines of home and friends and family was a challenge — there are a lot of things you take for granted like a bed, clean laundry and air conditioning. It really hit me around day three what living conditions were like for area residents following the hurricane.
Quite a few people came up to the crews and convoys to express their gratitude and give us the thumbs up. We had staging sites set up in grocery store parking lots and people brought fruit and desserts to thank us. Everyone was extremely appreciative of the work we were doing.
I had a memorable encounter with a resident in his late 80s who came over to talk to us. He mentioned that his wife was receiving chemotherapy and asked when we thought power would be restored. He shared that he was a former lineman and gave us his opinion on what was causing the outage in the area and thanked us for our assistance.
Once we got back to Chicago, I was exhausted and very glad to be home. But the work is very rewarding. You feel like a superhero that is coming to help people with a simple thing like turning on the lights in their home. I think it’s great that Exelon, ComEd and our other utilities can come together to help and support the local utilities and the community when they really need it. It was a good experience, and I’m glad I did it.