Linemen help with hurricane recovery

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
A lineman's work is never done Photo by Kerry Mattingly Barry Electric Cooperative linemen spent the Labor Day weekend working to restore power to residents of Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Isaac. Pictured above, from left, are: lead lineman Joey Rose, journeyman lineman Johnie Hendrix, apprentice lineman Brian Robbins and lead lineman Kevin Holloway.

As most local community members enjoyed family barbecues or time at the lake this weekend, four Barry Electric Cooperative linemen voluntarily spent their three-day weekend restoring power to homes in Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Isaac.

"When a disaster occurs, the statewide association in that state calls Missouri's statewide association to see if anyone is willing to go help," said Bill Shiveley, Barry Electric Cooperative general manager and chief executive officer. "It is done on a volunteer basis. Originally, we were told that they would be needed six days, but they ended up being gone five days."

Linemen Kevin Holloway, Johnie Hendrix, Joey Rose and Brian Robbins volunteered to assist in the disaster area. They left for Louisiana last Thursday.

"They worked with the Dixie Electric Membership Company (DEMCO) in Greenwell Springs, La., which is outside Baton Rouge," said Shiveley. "That cooperative has 9,700 miles of line."

At one time, DEMCO estimated that 68,000 members were without power.

Holloway, Hendrix, Robbins and Rose took a bucket truck and a digger truck to Louisiana with them. They worked Friday night, Saturday and Sunday and made their way back to Missouri on Monday.

Volunteer linemen traditionally work 16-hour days when helping in a disaster area, said Shiveley. Holloway, Hendrix, Robbins and Rose stayed in state highway patrol barracks during their volunteer service. Meals and fuel were provided by DEMCO.

"When they left everything was back on except 1,600 miles of line," said Shiveley. "DEMCO is going to have contractors and local cooperative members finish. There are some areas where the water has not gone down yet."

A total of 144 linemen from 30 cooperatives in Missouri responded to the areas of Louisiana impacted by the hurricane.

Both Hendrix and Holloway had volunteered in disaster areas in the past. In addition to responding to Hurricane Isaac, Barry Electric Cooperative linemen assisted in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and helped in areas impacted by disasters in Mississippi and Tennessee.

"It is important to help because we want help if we need it," said Shiveley. "Most linemen I have met want to provide service and get power back on whenever they can."

During the 2008 ice storm, around 65 volunteers from five cooperatives and three contractors responded to Barry County to assist with wide spread outages.

"We have a really good emergency preparedness system in Missouri," said Shiveley. "Our system tracks the number of linemen who volunteer and the equipment that is used. It's a very good system."

The disaster declaration in Louisiana began on Aug. 28 and will end on Sept. 28.

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