Area power crews aid Irene victims

EMPORIA, Va. – Crews from power companies in Ohio are assisting in electric restoration efforts in Virginia following last weekend’s passage of Tropical Storm Irene.

AEP Ohio has sent 160 full-time employees, including line mechanics, supervisors and technicians, who assess the damage before crews are deployed, after receiving a request for assistance from Dominion Power. In addition to the front-line maintenance personnel, tree personnel and contractors used by AEP Ohio also have been released to Virginia, a spokeswoman said.

The crews are working out of the Richmond area, and will be working in Virginia until Dominion releases them.

FirstEnergy officials said work is expected to continue throughout the week to restore service through the Northeast.

Officials with the Akron-based corporation said Monday that power was still out for 450,000 customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. That’s down from more than 850,000 FirstEnergy customers who lost electricity in Sunday’s storm.

A company statement says many of the outages are isolated and that restoration efforts are being hampered by debris and flooding.

Spokesman Mark Durbin said FirstEnergy will need to rebuild some assets “from scratch.” He says the company has sent crews to the disaster zone from throughout its territory, including 100 workers from its Ohio Edison subsidiary in northeast Ohio.

The Carroll Electric Cooperative sent five of its workers as part of a total of 20 linemen and supervisors from Ohio rural electric cooperatives responding to a distress call Saturday evening from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative in south Central Virginia.

Carroll Electric said its workers include Bill Meese, line superintendent, who will serve as a supervisor for the 20 rural electric cooperative employees on the Virginia detail, as well as workers Dave Mehalik, Mike Higgins, Rob Campbell and Chris Host.

The Carroll Electric crews are working out of the Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative facility in Emporia, Va., and are expected to work for at least a week on power restoration, according to Lynn Askins, safety and loss control director of the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives..

Larry Fenbers, Carroll Electric chief executive officer and general manager, said, “Carroll Electric received this type of brotherly assistance when Hurricane Ike caused nearly 90 percent of the members to be without power for nearly a week in 2008,” Fenbers said. “This is our opportunity to pay back our cooperative family for their commitment to our members.”