Super-cell storms recently pummeled our sister company, Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), resulting in large-scale damage, made worse by extreme heat. After helping restore power to SWEPCO customers, our I&M crews are back home. Two words our crews are using about their time in Longview and Marshall, Texas - humbling and appreciative.
"There were trees snapped, power poles broken, homes damaged - just a massive amount of devastation everywhere you looked," said Jesse LaFromboise, manager Distribution System and lead for our I&M crews deployed for this restoration effort. "Despite the damage, each person we came across was so appreciative we were there to help."
Close to a quarter of a million SWEPCO customers lost power after an EF-1 tornado and hurricane-force winds caused significant damage to the power delivery system. Approximately 112 Transmission and Distribution stations were impacted, and 58 transmission lines were forced out of service due to tree and structure damage. Nearly 800 power poles and nearly 300 transformers were damaged across SWEPCO's service area. At the height of the restoration effort, more than 4,000 energy professionals answered the call for help.
"We worked 16-hour days, in excessive heat, to set new power poles, string power lines and install new transformers. Every one made sure to look out for each other and ensure everyone came home to our families," said LaFromboise. "While the work was long and hot, we worked safely to make sure SWEPCO's customers could feel comfortable in their homes and return to work."
SWEPCO customers were beyond thankful for the return of the air-conditioning, lights, stoves, washing machines and video games. A local daycare in Longview, TX made "Thank You" cards for our restoration crews. One child was especially thankful to our crews for restoring power so he could return to playing "Minecraft."
"It may just be a video game, but to that little kid it's a return to normalcy. We also met a mom and her three children who brought snacks and drinks to thank us," LaFromboise said. "That's why we do what we do. We want to safely provide power so people can live their lives -- whether that's at home in Indiana or Michigan or anywhere else in the country when they need us. It's truly a humbling experience."
Being able to call in help from other companies nearby, or even states away, can make all the difference for a safe and fast restoration. SWEPCO crews have helped restore power to families, friends and neighbors in Indiana and Michigan after derechos, ice storms and other severe weather. I&M is thankful to return the favor for their communities in this time of need.