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By Kevin Fox
“If most linemen were honest, they would admit that what they really enjoy is responding to storms and making a difference over regular maintenance work”, stated John Brennan.
He continued, “Our response to the storm Sandy it was very gratifying to make that kind of difference.” Brennan along with Jack Fry, both of Clark County, were recently on the east coast to assist with restoring power to those who were hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy. John and Jack are both linemen with Alliant, while Brennan works out of Keokuk and Fry out of Fort Madison.
The two men were a part of a nationwide response of lineman that traveled to the east coast and left just prior to the storm actually coming to shore so they would be on hand as soon as possible. The two local men left home on October 27 and the storm struck the 27.
Brennan stated, “We drove through some pretty torrential downpours!”
The two first were employed by the Central Hudson Power Company and worked in the Catskill Mountains where Brennan said there were a lot of tall pines, but with no roots to speak of so it appeared they blew over fairly easily. The people there must have been used to power outages as a great many had their own generators. There was a lot of pulling lines out from under trees, cutting trees, and replacing broken poles. We were there for a week and the people were very appreciative of what we did for them.
Fry and Brennan stay in semi-trailers with 36 men to a trailer with just enough room to walk down the center of the trailer. The volunteer fire departments usually fed the group and both said they ate very well. Lunch would be a sandwich as there was little time for anything more with the days being 16 to 17 hours. Which also explained why no one noticed if anyone was snoring while they slept as everyone was simply too tired to notice or care! One of the trailers had no heat to speak of, but Brennan stated that their trailer was just the opposite as it “Was like an oven!”
From the Catskill Mountains, their crew would next travel to the Bronx, where the crew worked for Con Edison. It was a change in scenery and a somewhat change in attitudes. Brennan stated, “99 % of the people were very happy to have us there and restoring power. But any type of work we did also interfered with their traffic, which was already terrible, so there was a lot of gesturing and yelling at us. When we first got to the Bronx, there were as many as 600-700 thousand people without power and by the time we left that number was down to 90,000.
Among the things, which the crews were informed to be aware of was snakes, which would not be a problem because of the cool temperatures, and ticks, since they were working near Lyme, New York where Lyme disease got its name, and bears. Neither Brennan or Fry saw a bear, but one crewmember did.
In talking to Jack Fry about the trip he stated, “It was quite an experience! I had never been to the east coast before and the thing, which impressed me, was the traffic. I mean we have seen it on TV or read about it but it was simply bumper-to-bumper for miles. And even the places that we worked had a great deal of traffic. Overall the people were very appreciative of us being there and restoring power. Others were not so appreciative and wanted their power on right now with not a lot of concern about their neighbor. But the thing that must be remembered is that it takes something major here for us to be out of power for a day or more, these people had been out of power for six or seven days or more. And things were getting desperate as there wasn’t gas to go anywhere, and if they were able to get gas they had nowhere to go, as the hotels had no power either. And those that had planned ahead and had purchased generators couldn’t get gas to operate them. That would certainly make it very stressful. I had talked to one lady who said that the last major storm they had, she had been without power for exactly 30 days. I don’t know how they handle such an ordeal! I would probably go back again sometime, but I do know what to expect now, so it will not be such a shock.”