By SHERI GASSAWAY
While hundreds of thousands of Florida residents were scrambling to get out of harm’s way in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, a team of IBEW Local 1439 members were headed in that very direction to help restore power after the massive storm moved on.
On Friday, Sept. 8, Ameren Missouri sent about 125 workers and 75 contractors to the Sunshine State to help with expected restoration efforts. Of those workers, 54 are Local 1439 linemen. The members left at 4 a.m. with two-person crews on each truck.
The workers stayed in Birmingham, AL, Friday night, but as the storm began shifting west, Ameren ordered the crews back to the Midwest. The 54 Local 1439 members arrived home Saturday evening and left once again for Florida Monday morning.
Local 1439 Business Manager Doug Mueller said it’s not the first time the union’s members have gone on special assignments to provide disaster relief assistance. In 2005, Mueller spent about two weeks in Louisiana to help restore power after Hurricane Katrina.
“These workers are going into the unknown,” Mueller said. “After Katrina, we worked 18 hours a day installing poles, hanging wires and fixing transformers. In cases where there was total devastation, we had to rebuild everything.”
The crews are expected to stay in Florida for as long as necessary.