About 60 SWEPCO employees left the Ark-La-Tex at 9 a.m. September 27, once again for their third hurricane recovery effort, this time working for Progress Energy near Tampa in the wake of Jeanne. About 18 employees and 11-12 vehicles each left from Shreveport (service center in 6100 block of Union St.); Marshall, Texas (operations center on Hwy. 43 two miles north of I-20); and Fayetteville, Ark., Monday.
BACKGROUND: Sixty SWEPCO employees returned home September 20 from a 15-day trip to southern Florida to assist Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) in Hurricane Frances power restoration efforts north of Ft. Lauderdale. A fresh set of 62 SWEPCO employees scheduled to leave September 21 for Montgomery, AL to help in utility repair duties after Hurricane Ivan came ashore near Mobile were not needed by Alabama Power Company, since that company was making steady progress on power restoration. The SWEPCO employees were in a second stage request from FPL because SWEPCO was waiting on its Frances workers to return before releasing a fresh group of employees to work Ivan.
All SWEPCO crews that worked in Florida totaled 60 employees and 41 vehicles, representing workers from three district locations (Fayetteville, Ark., Longview, Texas, and Shreveport). These employees reported September 7 for work assignments in the field at a staging center set up at the Daytona International Speedway at Daytona Beach. The company employees represented several job classifications, including line mechanics, line servicers, engineering and fleet technicians, and distribution system supervisors.
FPL utilized the services of over 7,000 workers from 38 out-of-state utilities to restore power to over 2.8 million customers after Frances struck the state. While Hurricane Charley was only 40 miles wide and impacted 22 counties, Frances was 140 miles wide and affected most of Florida, including all 35 counties served by FPL.
This trip marks the third hurricane recovery assistance SWEPCO has provided since mid-August. SWEPCO sent about the same number of employees (60) and vehicles (40) to help following Hurricane Charley, where assistance was provided to FPL in the Tampa and Orlando areas for over two weeks August 12-28. The 816 AEP workers sent to Florida following Hurricane Frances is a record total for the corporation, breaking the 500 total sent last year to Virginia following Hurricane Isabel.
“The impact of major storm damage on an electric system can be extensive, and SWEPCO is in a position to help out neighboring utilities as part of our mutual aid assistance plan,” said Jim Hewlett, SWEPCO manager of distribution system operations, Shreveport. Electric utilities operate under a mutual assistance agreement in which they agree to help one another following catastrophic events that impact electric service.