Five HBPW personnel dispatched to Orlando, Fla., area.
Add Hurricane Irma to the list of storms after which the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) has supplied manpower and equipment to help restore electricity to an area.
“We assisted in New Orleans with Katrina in 2004, and in Houston with Ike in 2008, and in the northeast with Sandy in 2012,” said Heath Hall, director of operations for the HBPW.
According to Hall, four lineman and a supervisor, equipped with two bucket trucks and a one-half ton pickup, were dispatched to the Orlando, Fla., area on the morning of Sept. 7, arriving in Florida in the late evening of Sept. 8.
“They went with lineman from other Missouri municipal electric systems,” he said.
Hall doesn't know how long the HBPW personnel will be needed in the Orlando area, which according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released in March 2016 has a population of nearly 2.4 million making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida.
“They just began power restoration work yesterday (Monday). They spent most of the weekend riding out the storm and waiting on instructions,” he said.
While Hall has not received any direct reports from the HBPW contingent, according to the Orlando Sentinel hours of rain and high winds left about 6.5 million homes and businesses in Florida without power immediately after the storm.
As of Tuesday morning, Hall reported the Orlando Utility Commission had just over 130,000 people out of power. As for the Orlando area, it was estimated that about 1 million customers were without power.
In advance of the storm the Orlando Utility Commission issued a request for help to the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA), a municipal joint action agency to which the HBPW belongs.
“We have a mutual aid contract with MPUA and they have one with similar organizations in many other states including Florida,” said Hall.
The HBPW will eventually be reimbursed for its crew's efforts.
“Typically the utility that requests assistance reimburses us for our expenses. All of that is covered in the mutual aid agreements,” said Hall. “If FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) gets involved, then the original utility may get reimbursed for paying us and others for assistance.”
This is not the first time in 2017 that the HBPW has been called upon for help.
“We sent assistance two times during the summer to Independence, Mo., to assist with storm-related outages,” said Hall, adding that in both those instances the crews were gone for a couple of days.
The absence of four linemen leaves the HBPW's line crew at half strength.
“Normal operations will be a bit busier for the four lineman that stayed behind,” said Hall.
Reach reporter Danny Henley at email@example.com