Members of Union Power, Red Cross lend a hand
The electric cooperative network in North Carolina fosters a sense of kinship.
And Sunday, Aug. 28, after Hurricane Irene blew through the eastern part of the state, men from Monroe’s Union Power and EnergyUnited packed up and headed east to Ahoskie to help out the crews at Roanoke Electric Cooperative.
Roanoke Electric provides power in Hertford, Northampton, Bertie, Gates and Halifax counties in northeastern North Carolina. More than 13,000 of their members lost power when the storm hit, according to Robin Phillips, coordinator of communications for Roanoke Electric.
“We had real, substantial damage in all areas, and the worst of it was in Bertie, Northampton and Gates counties,” Phillips said.
The wind blew trees and lines over, blocking access to roads, snapping poles and knocking out power. “A lot of our poles broke. They snapped like toothpicks, which was amazing to me,” Phillips said. Crews from both companies have been working 14-hour days since the storm hit.
“We’re still working on it. We’ve still got about 11,000 without power,” Phillips said Tuesday morning. “Hopefully they’ll knock a big dent in that soon.” All power should be back on by the end of the week, she said, and according to the company’s website, only about 3,800 members were without power early Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve had to wait for the water to subside so we can go in and clean up debris and get trees off the lines,” Phillips said.
Crews at Roanoke Electric were grateful for the help from EnergyUnited, she said.
The EnergyUnited men have helped out by pulling lines, cleaning up, getting trees off the lines and putting poles back up. “They’ve been doing everything our guys have been doing,” Phillips said. “They are so sweet. I talked with some of them, and they’re really nice people, really nice.”
The men will likely stay through the end of the week, Natasha Suber, communications manager for EnergyUnited, said.
“All of our crews are very diligent and hardworking. They’re committed, not only to our members, but to other cooperatives. They go out to assist others, and cooperatives come and assist us when we’re in need,” Suber said.
Matt Sharpe, line manager of the Lake Norman Region who is also supervising the group in Ahoskie, told Suber that co-op members in eastern North Carolina have been very grateful, and despite the challenging conditions, homeowners have offered the visiting crews baked goods and drinks to show their appreciation.
“That obviously makes our guys feel good. The people seem to be in good spirits despite their conditions,” Suber said.
Red Cross lends a hand
Four volunteers from the Union County chapter of the Red Cross also packed their bags and went east to help in the wake of the hurricane. The four were part of a total group of 49 sent from Red Cross chapters across the state.
“This is a big disaster across multiple states, and the response will cost millions,” said Angela Broome, regional chief executive officer, American Red Cross, Carolina Piedmont Region. “If you can help, we encourage you to make a financial donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.
To help out, the Red Cross is asking for more blood donations, as the hurricane caused more than 82 blood drives to be canceled across the East Coast. The Red Cross estimates there will be a shortfall of 2,800 units of blood, due to the cancellations.