Local power crews respond to Hurricane Irene

REED CITY — While Hurricane Irene had little affect on life in Michigan, Michiganders had a serious positive impact on the everyday life of many of those affected by the Big Blow of 2011 living in the New York area - and further afield.

Following the widespread devastation throughout Long Island, NY, (especially along the coast), residents of communities such as those in the Rockaways woke after days without basic utilities to find crews from Reed City laboring away to get their homes and businesses up and running. (See the Letter to the Editor on Page 4.)

Hundreds of Michigan workers, including many from the Reed City area, headed to the New York area soon after the extent of damage to power systems became better known.

“We have quite a few guys working in Long Island,” reported Mark Pellerito, chief operations officer for Hydaker-Wheatlake (part of the Utility Supply and Construction Company group.) “I believe we sent out 268 employees from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

“We expect them home soon, but that depends on how soon the utility companies in the affected area are able to take full control of the situation.

“There’s been a lot of devastation. It’s hard to guess, but we’d expect our crews back home sometime this week.”

The Hydaker-Wheatlake crews that headed for New York became an extension of the local companies working in any given area.

“We’ve been working for about a week in the Long Island area,” continued Pellerito.

“We have mutual aid, or mutual assistance arrangements with utility companies around the country,” he explained.

“When there are catastrophic storms that occur, such as this hurricane, all the utility companies get together and evaluate the available work force.

“We review how many people can be spared while still having enough of a team to maintain the system at home.

“When we have numbers agreed upon, we ‘cut loose’ as many of our crews as is possible to help in the recovery effort.”

The teams headed for New York were fully equipped with everything they needed to be independently deployed — bucket trucks, digger trucks, pull trailers, backyard trucks, large and small tools, and everything needed to begin an effective renewal of utility resources.

“We work independently, but under the guidance of the host company,” Pellerito said.

“We do the best we can to help folks get back up and running. It’s tough being without electricity. It’s even tougher to be without for a long period of time.”

As noted, the Hydacker team will be arriving back home by mid-week unless called away to another area affected by Irene that hasn’t yet recovered.

“The guys are a long way from home,” said Pellerito.

“But they all want to help. It’s tough work under these conditions, but they get the job done.

“We’re proud of our crews.”