Muscatine Power and Water sends line crew to aid Florida

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–In the wake of Hurricane Ian and its destructive winds, people and businesses across Florida found themselves without power. Because of the enormity of the outages, crews from across the United States have traveled to Florida, aiding local utilities in getting power back to their customers. Sept. 28 a crew of three line workers from Muscatine set out for Florida, lending their services to a local municipal electric company in New Smyrna Beach.

When a large storm or natural disaster occurs, widespread power outages can overwhelm utilities in the area. Fortunately, utility companies typically participate in a mutual aid program, where each member promises to help the other in times of need. Mutual aid programs exist for both municipal utilities and private utilities. For smaller scale outages, Muscatine often works with municipal utilities in Durant and Wilton to restore power to all of their customers.

As Hurricane Ian barreled towards Florida, Muscatine Power and Water freed up a crew of three line workers, Chad Behnke, Barry Garretson, and David Scott, to offer aid to Florida. Early on the morning of Sept. 28, the crew left, taking three vehicles with them, a pickup truck for general use, a bucket truck for line work, and a digger derrick used for setting electrical poles. The crew drove for 14 hours before spending the night in Tennessee. On Thursday, while Ian made landfall in many places, they drove nine hours to a staging area in Tallahassee, Florida . Located out of the storm’s path, the crew waited there until they received an assignment to New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Muscatine Power and Water’s line crew preparing to leave for Florida. Photo courtesy Muscatine Power and Water.

A city located on the Atlantic side of Florida and just larger than Muscatine, New Smyrna Beach endured some of the worst effects of Ian’s wrath. The National Weather Service reported that the city received between 19.34 and 21.09 inches of rain between Sept. 28 and 30. The city also endured intense winds that knocked down many trees.

Beginning on Saturday, the three line workers started putting up single phase primary lines, similar to the kinds of above ground lines seen on many residential streets. With 994 customers still without power out of 8,000 initial outages, Muscatine Power and Water’s crew had plenty to keep busy with. The crew expected to work in New Smyrna Beach until all customers had power, approximately until Oct. 8. At that time, they started their return trip to Muscatine, unless another city in Florida needed additional assistance.

Because every electric company uses slightly different protocols and practices, working in a different city can present some hazards. The line workers reported that at least one worker from a different utility company received an electric shock while working and sustained unknown injuries. Fortunately, Muscatine Power and Water’s ongoing commitment to safety training and emphasis on staying alert to different dangers has kept its three line workers safe. “They let us know they’re doing well and are comfortable with the work they are doing,” reported Director of Utility Service Delivery Ryan Streck.

Because it took an enormous effort to respond to Hurricane Ian, Streck felt glad that Muscatine Power and Water could contribute to it. “I think it’s great we could free them up to help, and I hope they would do the same if we were hit.”

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