Editor’s Note: David Lingholm, social media specialist for DTE Energy, and Doug Sigler, senior technical engineer in DTE’s information technology department, spent four days embedded with DTE’s linemen and contractors in Florida to capture the stories of how DTE helped with recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.
After spending a few weeks in Florida restoring power, the first wave of DTE Energy linemen and contractors who made the 3,100-mile round-trip are back in Michigan. Many of the people who supported their efforts are home too, from logistics staff to mechanics.
For some of the crew, this was a brand-new experience. For others, this was another storm to add to the memory book. During the four days I spent with the linemen, I heard several stories about the challenges of the work they did to restore power in Quebec after the 1998 ice storm that left 4 million people without power in the dead of winter. Others had stories about restoring power to coastal towns in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.
They will have stories from this trip, too. From riding out the hurricane in a hockey arena to the extreme heat and humidity, there are plenty of memories for them to recount. When the storm passed, the work began and it was work the linemen were very familiar with.
“We run into the same problems (at home): trees on wires, downed lines, broken poles, stuff on the roads, stuff on the easements. It’s pretty much the same, except for the heat,” said linemen Mark Salvatori, four days after Hurricane Irma had passed.
Of course, there were challenges crews would not normally face at home. High temperatures immediately following the hurricane were in the 90s each day and low temperatures never seemed to drop below 80 degrees. Crews slept on cots inside the BB&T Arena, home of the Florida Panthers hockey team, after the storm passed until enough hotel rooms with electricity could be found. Driving to Florida and back in a work truck is a rather uncomfortable ride.
Some of the team, including Sid Kinnard, Dan D’avanzo and Harry Liogghio had an added responsibility they hadn’t previously dealt with on out-of-state jobs: ensuring the safety of a communications team embedded with them to capture their stories and share their accomplishments with folks back home. For that, I am grateful.
For the past few weeks, some missed wedding anniversaries. Others missed hearing their excited elementary school kids talk about the second week at school. Those sacrifices were made because they find meaning in their work.
They went to Florida with a purpose, to restore power. They did that for thousands of people in neighborhoods such as Coconut Grove and in cities including Coral Gables. They did it for senior living facilities, single family homes and for businesses. What matters for them is the chance to help, regardless of conditions.
Lineman Rich Buko said it best, “Linework is linework. It’s what we do.”