Hydro workers help hurricane victims
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 9, 2017
Minden Hydro One linesman Jeff Dunsford was on the ground in Florida helping to restore electricity following the devastation of Hurricane Irma, which hit the southern U.S. in September.
Dunsford and other Hydro One workers left Ontario Sept. 11, driving bucket and digger trucks to assist in the battered state.
The crew Dunsford was part of was working in Miami, which he noted sustained less damage than some other regions, such as the Florida Keys.
He said most of the damage he witnessed was caused by wind, uprooted trees taking out power throughout the area.
“They had material available for us,” Dunsford said, explaining that crews worked alongside the Florida Power and Light Company, as well as other utilities, and that the protocols and safety standards used there mirror the ones used at home. “The way the do things in Florida is very similar to the way we do things with Hydro One.”
Using the Miami Zoo as a staging area, Dunsford said workers were often approached by residents, asking when their power might be restored.
“We were in a very Cuban area of Miami,” he said.
“There was a bit of language barrier. People were coming up to us, asking if we were going to get their power going.”
Due to the communication gap, Dunsford said workers would sometimes simply follow residents back to their homes, to see where they were located and assess the damage.
He estimated that some people in the Miami area likely went three to four weeks without electricity.
Working long days in Florida’s heat was a challenge.
“It was very hot,” Dunsford said. “That was probably one of the biggest barriers.”
He noted that equipment, and people, sometimes do not work properly in extreme heat.
Dunsford has travelled to various parts of Ontario to assist in storm recovery before, but it was the first time he’d travelled out of province to do so, gone for approximately two weeks.
He was one of two local linesman who travelled to Florida and Hydro One sent a total of 175 employees down to assist with power recovery following the hurricane.
Hurricane Irma was the strongest Atlantic basin storm on record, qualifying as a hurricane for nearly two weeks and measuring some 650 miles across at its peak. It damaged almost all of the buildings on the Caribbean island of Barbuda, caused severe flooding throughout the southern United States and left millions of people without power.