When Superstorm Sandy left more than eight million East Coast residents without power in late October, a call went out to utility companies across the nation to assist with restoration efforts in the days that would follow the storm.
Two crews from Mid-American Energy, including employees from the Fort Dodge area, answered the call and traveled from Iowa to New York on Oct. 27 and Oct. 30.
Chris Dettmann, a journeyman/lineman; Larry Harms, a journeyman/lineman; and Doug Egli, an electric crew leader, all based from the Fort Dodge Service Center, traveled from Des Moines with 15 MidAmerican crew members from across the state to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. At Poughkeepsie, they spent more than a week helping crews from Central Hudson Gas & Electric restore power to100,000 customers.
The crew was shown around by crews from Central Hudson. They worked together in the restoration efforts.
"They took us around to some of the main outages," said Dettmann. "Reports said there were more than eight million people out there without power, and Central Hudson had around 100,000."
Helping that many customers came with challenges, Dettmann said.
"That's a lot of people," he said. "Sometimes they're frustrated and you have to explain to them why they can't get their power back right away. What a lot of people don't realize is that 100,000 may not seem like a lot, but in some places there might have been a mile of lines that only serviced two customers."
The terrain of the region was also a factor.
"We were north of the eye of the hurricane," said Dettmann. "Where we were, there were lots of trees. Sometimes it felt like there were more trees in one area where we worked than there are in the entire state of Iowa."
The rural, mountainous areas made access to poles and powerlines more challenging than working in the flat, open fields of Iowa, Dettman said.
"We did a lot of walking in those areas to get to locations we needed to be," he said. "You get into the hills and the trees, there are places where you just can't get into it with a bucket truck. We had to walk with equipment and physically climb up the poles."
When crews travel great distances to areas affected by storms, as in this case, they come from diverse parts of the state. That way, each service area of Iowa is still well-staffed in their absence, said Tina Potthoff, a spokesperson for MidAmerican Energy.
"We don't want to deplete our resources here," said Potthoff. "We have to have crews around to help at home, also."
Crews arrived back in Iowa after 16 days assisting with hurricane relief. Dettmann said it was a good experience and a chance to work alongside other MidAmerican employees.
"It's an opportunity to meet other linemen you don't always work with," he said. "The people out there saw our trucks with Iowa plates and couldn't believe we'd travel that far to help them out. They were very appreciative of that."