Local electric workers head north

Published 10:20 pm Monday, November 5, 2012

Four workers from Community Electric Cooperative convened with workers from other electric cooperatives from throughout the state to convoy to New Jersey, where they are helping restore power after Superstorm Sandy.

Four men from Community Electric Cooperative have joined the thousands of electric workers from all over the country headed to the New York and New Jersey area to help restore power knocked out by Superstorm Sandy.

The men left Virginia on Saturday and already are hard at work in Sussex County, N.J., said Jean Thrasher, vice president of operations and engineering for the cooperative.

“When we have the chance to pay back or pay forward, whichever term you want to use, we’re going to make the effort to help out others so they will make the effort to help us out,” Thrasher said, noting that about 120 workers from other areas came to help the cooperative after Hurricane Isabel.

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The cooperative serves about 10,800 customers in rural parts of Suffolk, Isle of Wight and Southampton counties, as well as portions of Sussex and Surry counties. Its construction crew includes only 11, so four men was a significant commitment, Thrasher said.

But the help was sorely needed, according to reports from the ground.

“It’s a mess up there,” Thrasher said, relaying what his crew had reported. “He said it looks like here after Isabel.”

The crew left several days after Sandy struck because they had to first deal with outages in their own territory.

“We got pretty lucky,” Thrasher said. He reported about 300 customers had been without power throughout the four days of the hurricane’s effects, and none was out for more than seven hours.

The local crew met up with teams from Mecklenburg, Central Virginia, Rappahannock and Prince George cooperatives along the way. The Suffolk crew is working alongside the Mecklenburg crew currently, he said.

The team is committed to being there for at least a week. The situation will be reassessed at that time, Thrasher said.

“Electric cooperatives across the nation have long provided mutual aid to their sister co-ops, sending crews hundreds of miles to speed restoration efforts following severe weather events,” Richard Johnstone, executive vice president of the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, said in a press release. “The line crews at Virginia’s 13 locally owned electric cooperatives all did a great job restoring power to their member-owners following the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused in Virginia. Our restoration efforts were assisted by co-op crews from six Southeastern states. We are now delighted to have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ and help folks in the Northeast who are still without electric service.”