Still going: Vt. line crews still repairing out-of-state storm damageBen Bemis Photo
Workers from Green Mountain Power put in a new power pole in Connecticut. Tom Murphy is in the foreground. Jared Bristol is running the digger. Jeff Robinson is standing in the back to the left and Ian McNulty is holding the pole.
Two weeks after Chris Gandin and his line crews went to work fixing the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, the Green Mountain Power supervisor said he and his workers are looking forward to coming home.
“I think we’ve all had enough,” said Gandin who on Monday was hoping he and his crews would be leaving New York to return to Vermont today. “It’s a thrill to any line guy to see the lights come back on. I’m sure a lot of guys would like to get back home though.”
For the last 12 days, Gandin and a team of 69 line workers, mechanics and other staff have worked to bring electricity back to out of state homes in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.
What was originally slated to be a weeklong effort in Connecticut stretched out last week for Gandin and the bulk of the crews when more than 40 workers were diverted first to a New York City borough and then to other communities in the Empire State that were hard hit by the hurricane.
“We went a little farther than expected,” said Gandin, who on Monday afternoon was in Ardsley, N.Y., just north of the city.
When Sandy hit Vermont on Oct. 29, the storm knocked out power to 48,000 GMP customers. That damage was repaired within 48 hours, but for the 70 workers that the company decided it could spare to help elsewhere, the work was just beginning.
While the utility expected to send workers south before the storm arrived, Gandin said the final details weren’t ironed out until hours before their departure and most of the workers on his team had scant time available to make arrangements to leave home.
“It was like ‘Make a phone call. I can give you 10 minutes but I need to know by then,’” Gandin said of the preparations.
On Thursday morning, Nov. 1, the workers departed in a long convoy of orange GMP bucket trucks that rolled south down Route 7. During the next week, crews worked in the towns of Waterford, Madison, New London, Niantic, Norwalk, New Canaan and Westport, where they restored power to tens of thousands of customers, Gandin said.
“One night we went to a restaurant in Niantic and when we walked in the door there was a large group of people sitting down who all of a sudden stood up and started clapping and cheering,” he said. “Come to find out, a lot of the folks were people we turned back on earlier in the day. I’ve never had that happen before.”
While surf damage from the storm destroyed large parts of the coastal communities that they worked in, Gandin said the areas his crews worked in were devastated by wind damage on par with a windstorm that knocked down hundreds of trees in Rutland in 2007.
“Most of the trees were just blown over with the root balls exposed,” he said. “It looked very similar to the Nor’icane.”
During their work in Connecticut and several New York communities, including Staten Island and Yonkers, the crews were often called to work 16- or 17-hour shifts, he said.
“It didn’t take long to fall asleep,” he said.
But staying awake on the job was important, not only while in the air working with high tension power lines but also while on the streets.
“Probably the biggest hazard we faced was the traffic,” he said. “It was unbelievable in Connecticut and New York. You really had to watch yourself.”
When the workers will return remains uncertain, although Gandin said he’s hoping the trucks will depart today or tomorrow.
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