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Linemen help restore power to hurricane-ravaged state

Published on

Cathy Dobson

As Florida residents return to their evacuated homes two linemen from Sarnia are there helping turn the lights back on after Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

“Some have generators but most have no power,” said Mark Pearson. He and Mike Lepelaars left Sept. 13 in a Bluewater Power bucket truck bound for the Tampa area with 14 other linesmen from Chatham, Erie-Thames, Essex, St. Thomas and Strathroy.

Pearson, who has been with Bluewater Power for 28 years, said he didn’t hesitate to volunteer because he appreciates the professional challenge and the chance to help others.

“You really see how lucky we are,” he said on the phone during the drive down.

“In these unfamiliar conditions, we have an opportunity to use our skills and knowledge to help in such an unfortunate situation.”

The local crew was directed to Dade City, a town northeast of Tampa, and arrived at the worksite Friday morning.

The roads were good, Pearson said, but downed palm trees had taken down power lines with them when Irma hammered the state.

They got to work immediately helping nearly two million Floridians still without power. The Florida Power and Light Co. estimated electricity wouldn’t be entirely restored to the west coast until this Friday.

The cost to repair homes, businesses and roads is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

In Sarnia, Bluewater Power’s director of operations, Mark Delaurier, said he tracked Irma and had anticipated a call for help as the hurricane made landfall.

Local crews have responded to numerous natural disasters before, including powerful hurricanes in 2008 in Texas and Louisiana and the 2013 ice storm in Toronto.

“I received the call on Monday from Entegrus Inc. out of Chatham asking for linesmen. The first two I asked, said yes.

“Every one of our guys is eager to go,” said Delaurier.

The Sarnia linesmen may be gone for two to three weeks and Bluewater Power will respond again if asked for more manpower to assist with downed power lines in the Caribbean Islands.

“I feel really bad about the islands,” Delaurier said. “They’ve had heavy damage and no communication.”

This is a busy time of year at home for Bluewater Power as crews finish up large capital projects in Sarnia before winter arrives.

That makes it harder to spare staff for hurricane duty but others have stepped up to cover their colleagues’ work schedules, Delaurier said.

Other local efforts are underway to help victims of Hurricane Irma.  The Rotary Club of Sarnia held a Hurricane Relief fundraising dinner at DeGroots Nurseries on Monday and donations were accepted at a breakfast Saturday held at the Sarnia First Christian Reform Church.

A Bluewater Power truck and its crew sort through downed trees while repairing power lines in Florida.
Submitted Photo

 

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