Imagine working in muggy heat hundreds of miles from home in a remote area of Texas, with no clear idea of where you’ll be sleeping or what kind of destruction you may encounter.
That’s what 13 HILCO Electric Cooperative linemen did in late August as they assisted Jasper-Newton Electric Cooperative in East Texas after Hurricane Laura brought destruction to the cooperative’s territory on August 26th. HILCO EC was one of several co-ops from around Texas who offered to restore power to more than 21,000 members in Jasper-Newton EC’s service area. Crews all returned home safely.
“It makes us proud to see a whole room full of linemen volunteer when another co-op needs help. It is one of our seven principles to cooperate amongst cooperatives,” said Thomas Cheek, HILCO EC general manager and CEO. “It makes us incredibly proud when we immediately start getting thank-you’s and praise from not only Jasper-Newton Electric Cooperative but their members, who recognize the sacrifices in order to come and assist them. We are thankful not only to be able to help but that everyone returned home safe. Even more important, during this unprecedented time, they returned home healthy.”
Justin Smith, a first-class lineworker at Jasper-Newton EC, experienced principle No. 6, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, when his work late in the afternoon on August 28th went awry. He was driving a chain saw through a huge oak tree that had toppled and pinned a power line to the ground behind Sam Rayburn Dam. Suddenly the trunk jerked into the air because of the tension on the line and then it came back at Smith, landing on his feet.
A crew from HILCO EC that was assisting Smith came to his aid and got him into a truck for a trip to the hospital. He fractured his left foot in three places and tore multiple ligaments, which required surgery. Smith, whose home was destroyed a day earlier by another fallen oak tree, was thankful for the quick actions of the HILCO lineworkers. “It just makes you proud. It makes me proud,” he said. “It’s a big brotherhood for sure.”
HILCO linemen volunteers were Derek Allen, Toby Amerson, Todd Anderson, Tyler Anderson, Kevin Bourgeois, Brandon Hillberry, Zach Hillberry, Kennedy McFarland, Kane Montgomery, John M. Prescott, Austin Seiler, Clayton Thompson and Michael Zamzow.