As cleanup continues after one of the worst hurricanes in Florida Panhandle history, line crews from Entergy Arkansas, the state’s electric cooperatives and Swepco are helping to restore power after more than 2.3 million customers lost electricity in Florida and Georgia.
Entergy crews left Thursday to help areas of Georgia hit as the Category 4 storm charged inland. About 75 workers, including line and support crews, are helping Georgia Power in their restoration efforts. Swepco, based in Shreveport and serving some 117,000 customers in western Arkansas, sent 90 employees into the fray last week. They, too, are helping Georgia Power.
Rob Roedel of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, said 104 line workers from member co-ops are helping get the lights back on in Georgia and at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, in a hard-hit area about 12 miles east of Panama City.
On Sunday evening, more than 350,000 consumers were without electricity in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the Edison Electric Institute.
Some 30 fatalities have been attributed to the storm, which made landfall at Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
The sending of crews to disaster areas is a tradition among utilities, which often have mutual assistance agreements to cover the strain of emergencies. "Entergy operating companies will send as many workers as they can spare to the affected area while keeping enough at home to meet the needs of local customers," Entergy representative Kerri Jackson Case said in a media advisory.
“In the utility industry, providing mutual aid is not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when,’” said Malcolm Smoak, president and COO of Swepco. “Our crews will keep the focus on safety as they work alongside local utility employees to get the lights back on for our fellow Americans.”
Trucks left Swepco service centers in northwest Louisiana, east Texas, the Texas Panhandle and northwest and southwest Arkansas in the days before the hurricane struck, said Swepco, a subsidiary of American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio.