Iowa line workers head south to help restore power after Irma

Workers could be gone two weeks

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Utility and energy cooperative crews are en route to southern states to help restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Alliant Energy trucks will leave early Tuesday to assist in an effort to bring the lights back on in Florida, according to a Monday news release.

About 200 Alliant personnel — including line workers, safety staff, vehicle mechanic, support staff and managers — from Iowa and Wisconsin will meet in Lake City, Fla., for staging before they head out to begin restoring power, Alliant Spokesman Justin Foss said Monday.

“For linemen, they know that when they get called that they are driven to help out,” Foss said. “Once you get electricity flowing, other things can start to recover.”

The release said more than 18,000 crews from 30 states and Canada are taking part in the effort, which was prompted by a request for aid though a national mutual assistance program.

“Typically, power companies close to an event respond. In this case, some local energy companies are already assisting with the response to Hurricane Harvey, and the damage from Hurricane Irma was so extensive that the request for help extended to energy companies in the Midwest,” the release states.

This type of mutual aid has occurred in the past.

“Our customers have benefited from this assistance when major storms hit our area. The most recent examples occurred in Iowa with the ice storm of 2007 and the floods of 2008. The last time our crews were needed in other parts of the country was 2012 when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast,” the release states.

On Monday morning, 15 of Iowa’s electric cooperatives sent 46 linemen and more than two dozen vehicles to Georgia to help restore power lost as Irma moved inland.

The workers could be in Georgia for two weeks or more, the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives said in a statement.

The Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corp. said 95 percent of its electric system was down as of Monday morning.

Some of those workers are employed by the Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative, based in Marion. A safety review for the Iowa workers included warnings on dealing with local hazards such as crocodiles and scorpions, the statement said.

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