When a catastrophic storm like Hurricane Harvey hits, there is so much cleanup and restoration work to do that it can be hard to decide where to start. For Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative lineworkers, however, it was a simple matter of heading to one of the hardest-hit areas to do what they do best: getting the power back on so the rest of the work can begin.
Victoria Electric Cooperative, which serves members along the Texas coast just north of where Harvey’s eye came ashore, lost power to all 22,465 meters on their lines. With sustained winds exceeding 100 mph in a wide area, there were a lot of things to fix before the power could be turned back on safely.
“From what we saw, our guys were doing a lot of troubleshooting, fixing problems with wind damage and working in areas that had damage from saltwater,” said TVEC Manager of Operations Rodney Wesley. “Everyone comes together in a situation like this to work together. For co-ops, it is like we are all part of a family, and when someone is in trouble, you go help.”
Fixing damaged electrical infrastructure is just part of a day’s work for lineworkers, but when you add the record-setting rainfall that Harvey dumped during the week after it made landfall, access to problem areas became an issue. The flooding even forced the first TVEC crew to change where they were staying after two nights.
“They had to bring a boat to get our luggage out for us at the hotel,” said TVEC Lineman Jay Cook. “Thankfully, one of the local linemen who was showing us around had rooms available at his house, and that worked out great. He even cooked us breakfast.”
The flooding was an obstacle, for sure, but the mosquito invasion that came along with the water made conditions somewhat miserable.
“They were calling mosquito spray ‘Port O’Connor Cologne’ because everybody had it on,” Cook said. “I went down after Katrina, and the mosquitos were bad then, but this was even worse. You had to spray down about every hour, and that only helped a little. They would just swarm on you.”
In all, 17 TVEC lineworkers participated in the effort over two weeks. That also required employees back at the co-op to cover some additional duties.
“We shift people around to make sure everything is still taken care of, and we rely on our contractors to step in as well,” Wesley said. “The contractors come off of their planned work to cover some of the maintenance tasks, and some of our construction crews may have to step in to do some other things, but that all shifts right back to normal when our guys get back.”