Hurricane Michael had stripped more than 100,000 homes and businesses in Tallahassee, Florida, of electricity when utility crews from Lincoln and Grand Island arrived to help restore power.
Tree limbs, trunks and branches were everywhere, veteran Lincoln Electric System lineman John Rohrs said.
Downed lines from the hurricane left damage akin to a power outage in central Lincoln after a snowstorm, but on a larger scale, Rohrs said.
“It’d be like going down Sheridan (Boulevard), but worse with all the trees,” Rohrs said.
At times, the crews’ nine trucks could barely pass through streets littered with trees, he said.
The Nebraska crews left to provide mutual aid in Florida on Oct. 9 and returned Friday.
Over the course of a week, Rohrs and 19 others from Nebraska set power poles, changed transformers and restrung wires, putting as many as 10,000 customers back online a day.
“We weren’t really ready to leave unless we really got these people on,” he said.
Much of their work was in residential areas, but they also restored electricity at a Target and brought power back to an elementary school, he said.
Neighborhoods greeted them with cheers, and drivers waved and shot them thumbs-ups as they passed on the roads, Rohrs said.
One woman who approached them was so grateful she bawled, he said.
Those responses made the 16- to 18-hour days in the heat and among the snakes, bugs and dogs worth it, Rohrs said.
He’d experienced this appreciation before in Long Island after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and out in central Nebraska after a 2006 ice storm.
But while away, Rohrs’ coworkers in Lincoln were hit with a snowstorm that dropped more than 3 inches of snow on the city and cut power for 7,000 customers here.
“The real heroes are the guys that stayed,” Rohrs said.
Source: The Associated Press