Grand Island Utilities crew works to restore power in Florida

A group of six lineman are working to get power back on for customers in Florida who were impacted by Hurricane Idalia.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 10:20 AM CDT
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LIVE OAK, Fla. (KSNB) - A group of lineman from Grand Island are helping get the lights back on after Hurricane Idalia knocked out power to thousands of utility customers in Florida.

Six members of Grand Island Utilities teamed up with Lincoln Electric System (LES) to travel to Florida last week to help with relief efforts.

Crew Chief Scott Bauer said they started in Tallahassee where they worked there shortly before splitting with LES and heading to a harder hit area near Live Oak, Florida.

He said it’s estimated that 28,000 of Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative’s 29,000 customers were without power when they arrived.

He said trees were down everywhere and they had over 100 mph straight winds.

Earlier this week, they worked with a tree contractor and a farmer to clear the road so they could get through to the lines.

Bauer said they are working with an employee from Suwanee to know where they need to go.

“We changed a lot of poles that have been broke,” he said. “A lot of wire on the ground.”

He said they would put it back up and then energize it.

“You get some line on and people will come out while we’re working, bring us water and snacks, and everyone you see will stop and tell you thank you, even if you don’t have them on yet,” Bauer added. “They’re just happy that we’re there.”

This is Bauer’s third time in Florida, but he said by far the worst it’s been damage-wise. He had a couple of workers that are experiencing this for the first time.

“They were a bit shell shocked at first, but now it’s kind of everyday work,” he said.

Bauer couldn’t say more positive things about the group of men with him on this trip.

“I’m super fortunate that the guys who came. They are super hard workers and very intelligent,” he said. “It takes a lot of you during the day.”

He said they are up by 5 a.m., grab some breakfast, get the trucks loaded and hit the road at 6 a.m. and work until 8 or 9 at night.

“It’s different than working in Nebraska,” Bauer said.

He did add that it’s a neat experience being around other lineman from all over the country.

“It’s nice at night when we are eating, we talk to some of the other lineman down here helping. I think they are all pretty tight knit.”

Bauer did say they have been sleeping in their trucks after getting to Live Oak because there were not enough beds, but none of his crew has complained. They realize what they are doing and how they are helping. It gives them a sense of pride and they know if Grand Island ever needed it, utility companies would return the favor, Bauer said.

The crew hopes to be done restoring power by the end of the week.

Grand Island Utilities Superintendent Bryan Fiala said they sent down a crew of six, a bucket truck, service truck and digger.

Fiala said they have enough personnel and equipment left in G.I. to handle if any needs would come up.

Grand Island Utilities is part of the American Public Power Association. The organization is helping to coordinate assistance efforts in the region. As a member of the APPA’s mutual aid network, GI Utilities is reimbursed for all costs of deploying resources to assist other utilities.