On Nov. 3 lineman Thomas Ellis and apprentice lineman Tim Goodman began an 11-day rotation in response to the massive power outages sustained in the “Frankenstorm” that assaulted the Northeast on Halloween.
The crew teamed up with several other Electric Cities of Georgia crews for the two-day trip to New Jersey.
“I think it’s always a good thing when you can help,” said Mike Stewart, LaFayette Electric superintendent. “It put us short-handed, but I feel that you never know if you’re going to need some help.”
"You better offer a hand if you ever expect to get a hand,” Ellis said.
The two men worked 16-hour shifts (5 a.m. to 9 p.m.) in a moderately wind-damaged area (Ocean Port, N.J.), replacing broken power poles and installing service wire.
The response left more work for the six linemen remaining in LaFayette, but two days after arriving, a “Nor’easter” dumped six inches of snow on the area, causing more repairs for the crews and increasing the misery for residents as they attempted to recover.
“It kind of added insult to injury, I guess,” Ellis said.
Those crews slept in tractor-trailers that held 30 in bunk beds, while local volunteers kept them well-fed.
Crews feverishly worked to re-establish power for the affected homeowners, with little chance to even gauge the magnitude of the disaster.
Ellis has responded to a total of four disasters in nine years with the city of LaFayette’s electric department, the worst being tornado damage in Athens. Ala. (north of Huntsville) on April 27, 2011.
He moved into a new home with his family a week prior to volunteering to assist in the hurricane recovery.
“I am writing to express my gratification for the service provided by this man and his crew who restored my electrical service, after it had been out for nine days,” Murray Rubin wrote in a letter of praise with a photo of the crew. “This man stated that we would have our power restored within two hours, and it was.”
The senior citizen couple didn’t even know the name of the workers, but cleverly wrote down their license plate, which led to the appreciation letter.
A similar letter from the Electric Cities of Georgia extolled the efforts that all crews made in emergencies during harsh conditions, while sacrificing time with their families.