Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

Public power crews assemble, deploy in response to Hurricane Sally

Crews from several public power utilities from Florida, Louisiana and Alabama are assembling and deploying to assist with power restoration efforts that will be needed in response to Hurricane Sally, which made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sept.16 as a Category 2 hurricane.

On Sept. 16, the Florida Municipal Electric Association reported that prior to Hurricane Sally making landfall earlier in the morning, it coordinated with public power utilities from across Florida to send mutual aid to assist with power restoration in Alabama.

Crews from the City of Tallahassee Electric Utility, JEA in Jacksonville and the Utilities Commission of New Smyrna Beach, will head to Foley, Alabama, to assist Riviera Utilities. Additionally, crews from Gainesville Regional Utilities and Orlando Utilities Commission will travel to Fairhope, Alabama, to assist the City of Fairhope Electric Utility.

A total of 90 Florida public power personnel are expected to arrive in Alabama Sept. 17 to assist their fellow public power communities.

Three weeks ago, crews from seven public power utilities went to Louisiana to provide mutual aid support to six public communities following Hurricane Laura, FMEA noted.

“Public power communities are always ready to answer the call for mutual aid assistance," said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director, in a news release. "Just three weeks ago, each of the utilities now headed to Alabama also sent crews to Louisiana to provide aid after Hurricane Laura. It really demonstrates the level of dedication public power communities have to one another. Public power personnel across the nation take great pride in providing mutual aid and we are incredibly proud of our members who are sending help to Alabama so that those affected can get their power back on as quickly and safely as possible."

FMEA noted that the health of mutual aid crews providing assistance during a pandemic will continue to be a top priority. Additional precautionary measures and health guidelines for mutual aid crews have been put into place. Crews will undergo routine health screenings, including temperature checks, to confirm they are fit for duty. They will also maintain social distancing during daily briefings, in their lodging accommodations and during mealtimes, and will also wear proper PPE, FMEA said.

OUC on Sept. 16 reported that its Fairhope, Ala., bound team was expected to begin work on Thursday, Sept. 17, and will be on site as long as it’s needed.

In 2017, City of Fairhope Public Utilities sent a mutual aid team to assist OUC with power restoration after Hurricane Irma struck Central Florida.

The mutual aid deployment comes only three weeks after OUC sent another 12-member crew to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Laura, the Category 3 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 27. That crew spent 13 days helping municipal utilities restore power to the residents of Alexandria and Winnfield.

“We are more than happy to return the favor to Fairhope for the help they gave us,” OUC General Manager & CEO Clint Bullock said. “This is what is so great about our industry, with mutual aid we assist each other in times of need.”

In keeping with OUC’s COVID-19 precautions, field crews observe social distancing and practice enhanced safety and sanitization protocols.

Meanwhile, Louisiana public power utility Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) was scheduled to deploy crews to Riviera Utilities. LUS tweeted a photo of its crews heading out to assist Riviera Utilities.

LUS is sending more than 14 lineworkers and 11 trucks. Greg Labbe’, LUS Electric Operations Manager, who oversaw recent restoration efforts in Vinton, La., will be heading LUS crews in Foley, Ala., Alex Antonowitsch, LUS Public Information Specialist, noted in an email.

On its Facebook page, Riviera Utilities reported on Sept. 16 that “Our area received considerable damage, and we currently have roughly 41,000 meters without power.”

Alabama public power utilities Cullman Power Board, Scottsboro Electric Power Board, Huntsville Utilities and Russellville Electric Board were scheduled to deploy crews to other public power communities in the state.

Two public power utilities – Dothan Utilities (Alabama) and Albertville Municipal Utilities Board – deployed crews to Riviera/Foley and Fair Hope, respectively.