« Back to November 2020 Newsletter

Double Trouble

Linemen respond to back-to-back storms

line of utility trucks in rearview mirrow
A convoy of Walton EMC crews head to Alabama in the area east of Mobile Bay to assist Baldwin EMC after Hurricane Sally. Photo: Greg Pannell

Our neighbors to the west are having a rough time.

Walton EMC crews first made the trip to Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, La., after Hurricane Laura devastated that area.

“Usually when you go on a storm, you either repair or replace what was existing,” said Line Crew Supervisor Wesley Payton. “On this one, there was nothing left. It was a complete system rebuild. Everything was gone.”

“The level of devastation is like nothing I’d ever seen. There was at least 30 miles of transmission [line] structure that was on the ground,” said Payton. Transmission lines are the lines on huge steel towers that bring power from power plants to the local utilities.

Payton said his crews set around 205 new poles and strung 3 1/2 miles of three-phase wire by the time they left for home.

As Payton’s crews were making their way back, more crews were headed to Baldwin EMC in Summerdale, Al., to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sally.

“They were prepared,” said Greg Pannell, right-of-way coordinator. “There was more help there than I’ve ever seen.”

Pannell said that measures were in place to stay safe with the COVID-19 virus threat, like housing being occupied at half the usual capacity.

“Out of all the storms I’ve worked, I’ve never had a daily safety briefing as thorough as theirs. Their safety director prayed over us before we left out. I really appreciated that,” said Pannell.

The crews worked primarily near the Perdido River on the Alabama-Florida state line.

Crew working at Hurricane Laura
Walton EMC employees assisting with Hurricane Laura power restoration include Josh Wolaver, Shooter Brooks, John Spence, Paul Nichols, James Daniel, Caleb Tallant, Josh Callaway, Eric Ellington, Ben Powell and Wesley Payton.
Crew working at Hurricane Sally
Walton EMC employees assisting with Hurricane Sally power restoration include Luke Davis, Matthew Boone, Jacob Lewis, Dustin Richardson, Jonathan Brooks, Greg Pannell, Bradley McCallister, Tommy Ledford, Matt Britt, Tyler Gray, Reed Gogan, Jason Higgins, Jeff Cooper and Jacob McNary.
Line of new poles with UGA flag mounted on first one
Walton EMC crews rebuilt miles of lines with new poles after existing lines were swept away by Hurricane Laura. Photo: Shooter Brooks
Concrete power pole broken by Hurricane Sally
The force of a hurricane can even cause concrete power poles to break. Walton EMC crews were tasked with securing the pole until it could be replaced. Photo: Greg Pannell
Utility truck working on pole after trekking through mud and muck
Crews fought mud, muck and swamp grass to get to downed lines. Photo: Wesley Payton