OUC linemen on Friday (Sept. 4) begin power restoration work in Winnfield, La. Photo, Dewey Harvey, Lead Line Tech
All 25,500 electric customers in Alexandria, La., have gotten their power back on, but for OUC’s mutual aid team deployed there since Saturday (Aug. 29) the job isn’t done until it’s done.
On Thursday (Sept. 3), as the 12-member team was wrapping up field work with the expectation of being back home by the weekend, a small municipal utility sent out a call for help with restoring power to customers. Home will have to wait.
Next stop: Winnfield, a small town 50 miles to the north on U.S. Highway 167.
“We’ll be heading up there as soon as we’re released by Alexandria,” said Spencer Barnes, who as Line Supervisor leads the team of two five-member line crews and a fleet mechanic. The team may keep its hotel rooms in Alexandria and commute to work because Winnfield (pop. less than 5,000) may not have accommodations.
Leaving Alexandria’s neighborhoods will be bittersweet for Barnes and his guys, as they made quite an impression on townspeople while restoring their power in the wake of Hurricane Laura.
“These people are some of the nicest people I’ve run into over the years,” he said. “They would bring you out water on four-wheelers. They would come out to meet the guys. Three nice ladies cooked pulled pork, string beans, butter beans, sausage and chicken for us, and they gave each of us a bag of fruit and a snack. They just wanted to do something for us.
“I think they took a liking to us because of the way we worked. We don’t mess around when we serve our customers, and we treated residents here like they were our customers. My guys don’t drag around just trying to make time. They keep moving.”
Alexandria Utility System’s Director of Utilities, Mike Marcotte, on Thursday commended the OUC team for the impact it had on power restoration.
“We gave them some of the ugliest work we had and they never looked back,” he said. “Once we got them to a site they knew what to do. They were working in neighborhoods where 100-year-old trees were down everywhere and half the utility poles were broken and every single cross arm was broken.”
Winnfield sustained similar damage.
“There are a lot of big trees down, and we’ve still got about 1,000 people without power here,” said Tina Williford, who works in the City of Winnfield’s human resources department.
If Winnfield residents are as neighborly as the nice folks of Alexandria, Barnes and his crews should feel right at home.
Check in with OUC360 for updates on our mutual aid deployment to assist with power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Laura.
OUC lineworkers spent six days working on power restoration in Alexandria, La., before leaving for Winnfield. Photo, City of Alexandria