Letters from Home and Away

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

Earth viewed from afar has a serene quality, an orb afloat in a sea of space, its bluish cast providing benign cover to the sometimes-violent dramas playing out at ground level, both man-made and meteorological. 

There was no such benign cover, though, on Monday, Oct. 29, as satellite images of Earth showed a massive, menacing storm, 1.8 million square miles in size, on the verge of grinding over and through a huge swath of the Eastern U.S., from the mid-Atlantic to the Ohio Valley, over to New England, and even into Canada. With twice the kinetic energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Hurricane Sandy would make its mark both on the record books, and on the landscape, principally the New Jersey Shore.

Dubbed a “superstorm” because of its sheer physical size, Sandy’s footprint was as broad as it was bruising, with winds of more than 60 mph felt up to 500 miles away. Its arrival just before Halloween and the awe-inspiring range of its destructive power — from torrential rains in the east to 3-foot snowdrifts in West Virginia — prompted another, eerily apt, name: “Frankenstorm.”

Sandy thus entered the hurricane rogue’s gallery, joining such ferocious forebears as Hazel and Hugo, Agnes and Andrew, Camille and Katrina, Isabel and Irene. Through them all, electric cooperatives have worked tightly together to restore service to their customer-owners. As one cooperative finishes restoring power, its crews go to other cooperatives, to assist in their restoration efforts. Such mutual assistance embodies what a cooperative is all about: the many joining together as one, in common cause, for the benefit of all.

Large investor-owned electric utilities, of course, have similar mutual-aid arrangements with each other. The ferocity of Sandy’s fury, though, prompted a wider call for help. Virginia’s electric cooperatives answered that call. And so shortly after restoring power to their own customer-owners, 136 linemen from eight Virginia electric cooperatives headed north to New Jersey, most in a convoy of red and white and yellow trucks, a colorful caravan with a somber mission.

They were received warmly, and treated well, by the grateful citizens up there. We’re pleased to share some of the heartfelt thanks that customers of Jersey Central Power & Light sent by mail or posted online. We also include a few of the countless notes of encouragement posted online by folks back home. These letters from home, and away, boosted the spirits of these dedicated “wood walkers,” as they braved difficult and dangerous conditions to bring power and light and heat to those who needed it.

We are very grateful for all the help that came our way. I also want to thank the families that have been patiently waiting at home for the workers to return. (From a New Jersey resident, about Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative crews.)

We appreciate all the hard work you guys put in to get us up and running! You guys are such hard workers and we could tell you all cared about us. Thank you, and your families that you had to leave behind to come and help us! (From a New Jersey couple, about Prince George Electric Cooperative crews.)

(T)he sight of your crews methodically working so hard up and down our roads for our benefit was truly humbling and very much appreciated. As we couldn’t do more than stop to thank them as we drove by, we wanted to send you a note of gratitude and hope you communicate with them and let them know how much their tireless work was appreciated. (From a New Jersey couple, about Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative crews.)

Thank you, Thank you! Please let your staff know how much we love them and all the hard work they do to keep our lights on. They risk their lives for us and it does not go un-seen ... If anyone needs a hot cup of coffee, stop by. (From a customer-owner of Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative.)

So proud of our men. We need to give them a thank u party! (From a customer-owner of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative.)

Good luck to all you guys as you help others restore their electricity. We know it isn’t an easy job. Prayers are with you for safety and good health. (From a customer-owner of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative.)

All the people were as nice as could be ... We were offered the use of the peoples’ shower facilities and some made pizzas for all of us. (From a line crew worker at Community Electric Cooperative, on the wonderful treatment of the Virginia crews by New Jersey residents.)  

Postscript: All 136 linemen from Virginia returned home safely to their families, after providing exemplary service to those in need. The cooperative spirit is alive, and well.




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