OUC’s line crew is helping restore power to Mississippi Power customers in Gulfport, Miss.

As daylight faded over Gulfport, Miss., on Sunday (Nov. 1), Choice Ryon and his OUC line crew didn’t want to leave the neighborhood they had been working in all day until they had gotten the power back on to most of the homes on a circuit knocked out by Hurricane Zeta.

This was their first day in the field since Zeta’s category 2 winds swept across Gulfport on Oct. 28 and they had made a lot of progress on repairing downed powerlines. In just a few more hours they would have 80% of a circuit back up, bringing power to a few thousand residents.

“Mississippi Power came by and told us to pack it in for the night,” said Ryon, referring to the utility OUC sent the 11-member crew to help. “But we didn’t want to leave these people in the dark another night. So we stayed, got most of the homes on the circuit reconnected, then returned Monday to complete the job. People were very thankful that we remained on site and worked late that night.”

The Gulfport deployment brings to five the number of times OUC has dispatched line crews to help Gulf Coast utilities recover from named storms during the hectic 2020 hurricane season. That’s a record OUC hopes to never break.

OUC linemen were sent to the cities of Alexandria and Winnfield, La., after Laura struck on Aug. 27; to Fairhope, Ala., after Sally (Sept. 16); and to Lafayette, La., after Delta (Oct. 8). Zeta, a record-tying sixth hurricane to make landfall in the United States and record fifth named storm to hit Louisiana this year, actually accounts for two deployments. In anticipation of Zeta inflicting damage on its newly restored grid, Fairhope requested OUC come to its aid again. Ryon and four linemen left Orlando in the late afternoon on Oct. 29, expecting to reach their destination the following day. But Fairhope emerged from the storm in good shape, so the OUC crew returned home Oct. 30, only to be reassembled as a larger force and sent the next day to help Mississippi Power. The utility released OUC’s crew on Nov. 4.

Unlike deployments for Laura, Sally and Delta, the post-storm weather for OUC’s Zeta team has been pleasant, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s in the morning and 70s in the afternoon. Ryon said 16-hour workdays don’t seem so long and grueling when it’s not hot and humid, as is usually the case after a hurricane.

On Tuesday (Nov. 3), Ryon said his team was expecting to sleep in hotel rooms for the remainder of their stay. They had been sleeping in their trucks and trailers, the latter provided by Mississippi Power for visiting line crews.

“I have been sleeping in my truck,” said Ryon. “The beds in the trailers are too small for me! We’ll all be glad to get into hotel rooms and get a good night’s sleep.”

Other members of OUC’s Gulfport mutual aid team are:  Jason Reynolds and Brian Barnett, both Lead Line Techs; Donny Hurley, Lead Line Tech I; Justin Restituyo, Line Tech I; Michael Atout, Dale Rushing, Chase Crawford, Austin Nettles and Nicholas Rawlings, all Line Tech II’s; and Eric Rivera, Fleet Mechanic.