Editor’s Note: David Lingholm, social media specialist for DTE Energy, and Doug Sigler, senior technical engineer in DTE’s information technology department, are embedded with DTE’s linemen and contractors in Florida. They are capturing the stories of how DTE is helping with recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.
Day 2 of our #AfterIrma trek began in Macon, Ga., where we stopped for the night to get some sleep before driving through the remnants of Hurricane Irma. The hotel was full of people either like us, on their way to Florida for work, or people who were looking for a safe place to ride out the hurricane before returning home. As we checked out Monday morning, I noticed a flyer advertising a free laundry event for evacuees for Tuesday afternoon. While it might seem like a small thing, I am certain Floridians who left their homes in a hurry are grateful for the opportunity to wash their clothes.
As the rain stopped and the winds began to slack off, I-75 southbound began to fill with residents returning home and utility trucks from around the country headed into different areas of Florida to help get the lights back on as soon as possible. Convoys of linemen, tree trimming crews, portable generators, portable showers for crews, and utility poles lined most of our drive south.
It was an eerie feeling driving into South Florida on Monday tonight. This is a city normally alive with activity but most neighborhoods were without power. Intersections that are normally filled with traffic were dark. A few were blocked by police due to fallen lines. The buzz of air conditioners was noticeably absent on a night with temperatures at 80 degrees at 11 p.m.
Hotels with electricity are hard to come by and hotels with available rooms are an even rarer commodity in South Florida. Visiting utility crews are using BB&T center, home of the Florida Panthers National Hockey League team, as a temporary residence. They’re sleeping on cots and eating MREs (meals ready to eat) when they get back from a long, hot day of working on power lines. For the next two weeks, their start at 6:30 a.m. and run until at least sundown, when they head back to the staging area to prep their trucks for the next morning’s assignment.