Sign of appreciation posted in Alexandria, La. Photo, Jeff Cockcroft, Lead Line Tech

Labor Day was no holiday for OUC’s storm response team, but at least it ended with good news and meals not served in Styrofoam containers.

After spending their 10th day in the field, with the last four working on the City of Winnfield’s battered and outdated power grid, the 12 crew members (11 powerline techs and a fleet mechanic) were told they could head home. So they got in their trucks and drove an hour to Alexandria, where they were first deployed, took showers at the hotel they had been staying in and went out for a celebratory meal at the local Texas Roadhouse.

“The highlight of the week was being able to sit down in a restaurant and have a meal,” said Jeff Cockcroft, one of the two Lead Line Techs on the mutual aid deployment.

From Aug. 29 to Sept. 3, the team, led by Spencer Barnes, Line Supervisor, worked in Alexandria, where 25,500 utility customers were without power. OUC linemen, with Fleet Mechanic Alfred Jones lending a hand, worked from sunup to well past sundown each day clearing tree debris and untangling powerlines from downed branches while rebuilding feeder systems and restoring power to residential neighborhoods. After power had been restored to all Alexandria Utility System customers, the crew was dispatched to Winnfield, a small city 50 miles to the north.

There they faced similar devastation but with the added challenges of working on older utility infrastructure and having fewer resources for replacing damaged parts. Still, they got the job done.

Cockcroft said everyone worked well together and their field duty ended without a scratch on anyone. “That’s always a positive,” he said. “It was a great experience. We were glad to help people; that’s the main thing.”

Barnes commended the team for its hard work in extreme heat and humidity. “The guys really stepped up, and I have to give a shout out to Jeff Cockcroft,” he said. “He pretty much took the lead on everything while I handled the paperwork, timesheets and other stuff. Jeff did a fantastic job. But I’m very proud of all of them.”

Other team members on the mutual aid deployment were Dewey Harvey, Lead Line Tech; Rick Bloom and Roy Bloom, both Line Tech I’s; Shawn Wall, Ricky Parks, Darrell Gay, Pat Gulotti, Mitch Coakley and Matt Coakley, all Line Tech II’s.

Traveling in 11 trucks, the team is expected to return to Pershing sometime Wednesday, Sept. 9.