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RPU employees jump in to help with power restoration efforts in Florida

The crew of six line workers and mechanics from Rochester Public Utilities left Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 2022, along with 38 line workers, additional mechanics and support staff from 14 public utilities across Minnesota.

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A crew of six line workers and mechanics from Rochester Public Utilities are helping with the power restoration efforts in Florida due to Hurricane Ian in September 2022.
Contributed / Rochester Public Utilities
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ROCHESTER — Six Rochester Public Utilities employees are headed into the eye of the storm.

The crew of lineworkers and mechanics left Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 2022, along with 38 lineworkers, additional mechanics and support staff from 14 public utilities across Minnesota to assist with power restoration efforts in Florida.

The group, gathered by the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, will provide mutual aid with the power outages expected due to Hurricane Ian.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Ian hit the Gulf Coast of Florida in Cayo Costa, Florida, with wind speeds of 150 mph, which the National Hurricane Center rates as a Category 4 storm. Florida power companies have reported over 524,000 homes and businesses do not have power .

RPU communications coordinator Tony Benson said the two lead lineworkers, two journeymen and two mechanics heading to help are “very experienced.” The employees volunteered to assist in the aid efforts.

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“It is just understanding that (Florida is) going to have a large number of outages that they’re anticipating, and the lineworkers going will work on restoration efforts, whether it be setting poles, stringing new lines, or whatever it takes to get the infrastructure back up so they can get power to those customers if they lose power,” said Benson.

Benson said RPU has assisted with mutual aid calls in Florida several times before along with cities in Minnesota, Missouri and New York. Mutual aid calls are based on anticipated needs and severe weather situations. The need for mutual aid can have gaps of two or three years, Benson noted.

The Florida crew expects to arrive in Kissimmee, Florida, Friday and work in locations where the need is the greatest, according to Benson. Their length of time in Florida also depends on the amount of power restoration required. Three Austin Utilities crew members and three Owatonna Public Utilities lineworkers are also responding to the mutual aid call.

“It will be long hours, it will be a lot of time working on restoration for those folks in Florida,” said Benson.

Power restoration efforts are also in place in Cuba , and eastern Canada and the Caribbean following Hurricane Fiona.

“Power restoration is not about how quick you can get the power on,” Benson explained. “It’s about being safe and doing the work as safely as possible. I can’t stress that enough because they’re working with electricity and working in elements such as wind and rain, which can be dangerous as well. We just want to stress that it’s about safety, and we want our lineworkers to come home safe and work safely.”

Rochester Public Utilities Florida Group.jpg
A group of over 30 Minnesota line workers, mechanics and suppport staff are traveling to help with power restoration efforts due to hurricane Ian. The group left Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 and plan to arrive on Friday in Kissimmee, Fla.
Contributed / Rochester Public Utilities

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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