ArkLaTex utility crews leave to help with hurricane recovery

Published: Oct. 6, 2016 at 1:19 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2016 at 1:38 AM CDT
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Personnel from at least 2 ArkLaTex utilities are being staged near the East Coast to help after Hurricane Matthew blows through.

AEP-SWEPCO has deployed about 50 workers to Macon, Ga., to help Georgia Power - a subsidiary of Southern Company that serves 2.5 million customers in Georgia - with storm restoration efforts.

They left AEP-SWEPCO's service center in Fayetteville, Ark., early Oct. 5.

Among them are teams from Longview, Texas, Texarkana and Shreveport.

Fifteen to 17 local employees and 4 to 5 vehicles have been dispatched to Georgia.

Additional personnel from the Arkansas cities of Rogers and Greenwood joined the Fayetteville convoy along the way.

The workers include supervisors, line, service, engineering, support and fleet employees.

"What they're going to come into is total devastation," AEP-SWEPCO spokesman Scott McCloud said. "You come into an area where you've got no power. You've got poles down, transformers down, wire hanging.

"So they'll have to rebuild the infrastructure from the ground up."

The crews, operating under mutual aid agreements, could be helping hurricane-ravaged areas for two to three weeks, McCloud predicted.

Also, AEP-SWEPCO has released 50 contractor personnel to work in Orlando, Fla. Likewise, Cleco has released 59 contractors to help utility companies in Florida.

"The track and intensity of this hurricane may be uncertain, but it is wise for utilities along the East Coast to prepare now for the possible impacts from Matthew," said Floyd Pittman, Cleco's mutual assistance coordinator. "Cleco has been part of conference calls with utilities that have customers who could be impacted from the storm. They are taking the storm seriously, and we are ready to help in any way we can."

Cleco also is preparing to send a 44-member storm team to assist Georgia Power. Cleco crews from Mansfield, Rosepine, Pineville, Eunice, New Iberia, Bunkie and Covington are set to leave for Georgia on Oct. 6. The plan is for them to travel to Alabama by Thursday evening and arrive at Macon, Ga., by Friday.

"We understand all too well the challenges utilities face following severe weather," Pittman said. "It is common practice for utilities to assist one another during large restoration efforts. We have received help after hurricanes damaged our system, and we gladly support those who could see a large number of power outages due to this hurricane."

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