Five HBPW personnel departed for Florida on Sept. 7

Under normal circumstances, spending two weeks in the Orlando and Tampa areas of Florida would be the makings of a memorable vacation. But for a handful of Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) personnel, two weeks was probably enough after spending that time restoring power in storm-ravaged parts of the Sunshine State.

Heath Hall, director of operations for the HBPW, announced Wednesday that the Hannibal crew had been released from its power-restoration duties that very afternoon and would be making its way back home.

“While I know our crew was excited to assist during this time of need in Florida, I am sure they will be glad to get back to their families. And we are glad they are all coming home safe,” said Hall.

On Wednesday evening, Duke Energy said it had restored electricity to essentially all customers in Florida impacted by Hurricane Irma, although some isolated power outages remained. In announcing that more than 1.9 million outages had been restored, Harry Sideris, Duke Energy Florida president, extended thanks to the “numerous utility companies from across the nation that provided assistance.”

Four HBPW linemen and a supervisor, equipped with two bucket trucks and a one-half ton pickup, were dispatched to the Orlando, Fla., area on Sept. 7. After waiting for Hurricane Irma to pass, the HBPW crew joined with linemen from other Missouri municipal electric systems in helping to restore electrical service beginning on Sept. 11.

After working initially in the Orlando area, the Hannibal workers were then redeployed to the Tampa area, specifically in Lakeland, a city of around 100,000 people, according to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

Depending on when the HBPW group hit the road, it should be back in Hannibal as early as Friday to at some point over the weekend. Hall did not know when those workers would be back on the job locally.

“It depends on when they return,” he said.

The absence of four linemen left the HBPW's line crew at half strength.

“We were shorthanded during their absence,” said Hall, noting that some electric department work was put on hold because of the manpower shortage. “But the main project we already had scheduled, the South Side Substation transformer replacement, still went as scheduled.

“Other routine, lower priority work - street light replacements, meter testing, etc. - was put off during their absence.”

Because it has a mutual aid contract with the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA), which has mutual aid contracts with similar organizations in many other states including Florida, help from the HBPW was requested by Florida utilities in advance of the storm.

This was not the first time in 2017 that the HBPW had been called on for help. Twice crews were sent this to Independence, Mo., to assist with storm-related outages, according to Hall.

 

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com