Dorothy's Superstorm Sandy Notes

DorothyEl Paso Electric's Dorothy Wells accompanied the EPE crews at the beginning of their deployment to New York. 

Thu 11/8/2012 9:47 PM
Morning ya'll…and a "yo how ya doin’" to all of you.

Today is day nine of the restoration.

Record snow fall for November and guess where most of it fell ????  Where we are working!

Con Ed reported that 104,800 customers were without electricity in all service areas, out of an estimated 950,000 initially affected.  That includes 50,536 in Westchester and the Bronx.

The estimated restoration date for most of these customers is November 9.

Our guys are working in the same area, moving down the line.  Today they are wearing their rubber boots and working with the snow all around them.  There’s lots of the work that involves knocking snow off of the power lines.   Snow is heavy here!  Lines are sagging.

Safety Report from Con Ed: there have been four injuries during the restoration effort - two serious incidents, one fatality and one serious burn.

EPE continues to work with safety as a priority.

Dorothy waving

It is with great sadness that my plans to capture EPE crews at this event are coming to an end.  I am heading back today and plan to attend the El Paso Electric Veterans Breakfast tomorrow.  Air traffic has been cancelled for this morning, but my flight is still a go for this afternoon.  The plan was for me to join the guys in New York at the beginning of this deployment and maybe once again at the end of their stay.  But I feel the guys are going to be home soon and there will be no need for a second wave.  I could be wrong.

I felt like I was leaving my family this morning as I hopped into my taxi. No need for hugs. I will see them all soon and we will all know that we have shared part of history. 

 

Wed 11/7/2012 8:09 PM
Night time notes.

Yo...that’s about all I can get out tonight.

We worked in the town of Harrison today and we have been beating the time Con Ed has been giving residents of when their power will be restored.  Yes, we are the best, but with safety as our first priority.

We were pulled away from our worksite at 4:30 p.m. to evacuate Tent City due to the weather. So we loaded the trucks with people and luggage, and went to the hotel and dropped everything off.

David Carr conducted a phone interview with the Diario de El Paso today and I believe it went very well.  The reporter asked him to compare this disaster with the El Paso freeze. Believe me, there is no comparison ....a disaster vs. a freeze...hours of lost power vs. no power for days. 

snow and truck

The snow is still falling but they expect it to let up by 2 a.m.  The guys are still planning a full day of work tomorrow.  The problem now seems to be supplies - wire, transformers etc. They are in short supply.

Kudos to our birddog Nick from Con Ed. He's our middle man and said we seem like a family and wished they had more of that at Con Ed.

We did receive 3 out of the 4 boxes of supplies we ordered from El Paso. Thanks go out to Robert Duran and his crew.

The men have been working 12-hour days and the main thing they are thankful for at the end of the day, are the rooms we have found for them.

The faces of residents when they find out we’re from El Paso is amazing and they continue to be in disbelief.

Special kudos go out to Steve Wertheimer, an EPE board member, he lives very near to where we are working and was able to secure 14 rooms all together starting Friday and for the remainder of our stay. He was our hero today at dinner, when I told everyone.

The guys are truly something to see when they work. It’s like a planned blueprint and everyone has their function. I have a lot of admiration for these men and our support personnel. They’re truly amazing. El Paso you should be proud!

Going to bed, have to get up early.

Night.

Wed 11/7/2012 3:28 PM
The following information is an update from David Rios, Supervisor of Distribution Dispatch at El Paso Electric.  David is one of 11 damage assessors that are in New York to assist Con Ed in the restoration of power after Superstorm Sandy.
David Rios
We completed our fourth day of damage assessment early this morning and we are doing great!
 
Our Con Ed coordinator for the damage assessors gave us kudos on the work we are doing for them.  They are impressed with the electrical knowledge and the experience of our team.
 
We have assessed approximately 400 locations to date. 
 
Our main assignment has been to verify low wires and service drop conditions.  But being "Team EPE", we have gone beyond this simple task and have reported numerous primary and secondary conductors down and broken poles.  As part of our task, we are also flagging the wires down to alert the public and others.
 
The work locations range from city development to very rural country.  However, Google Maps and iPhones/iPads have really helped locating the areas.  Even when roads are blocked by fallen trees or wires, we have been able to find alternate routes.  Good Tools!
 
Keep in mind that the calls are hand-printed notes.  We do not get maps of the area or the lines. 

We report to a different location than the mobile command center in our staging area.  It’s located about 30 minutes away.  We report to a Damage Assessor Coordinator who takes roll and conducts a tailgate meeting before assigning the work.  Con Ed has consistently stressed safety first and reminds us not to rush the work.
 
We call in our completed calls from the field for the most part and receive additional calls through the night.  At times, we overwhelm our coordinator with completed calls so he STRONGLY suggests we take coffee breaks!  For the most part, we do not have a chance to have meals in the mess hall.  We leave the staging area before dinner is available and return after breakfast.  So we have been purchasing meals on our credit cards.  However, at night and some without power, it’s been difficult to find open eateries.  But we are not getting skinny by any means!
 
This afternoon we moved into a hotel, thanks to Juan Rivera and Dorothy Wells.  Great timing since our camp was being evacuated due to the pending storm.  So far, there are 3 inches of snow on the ground and we've got 3 hours before we start tonight's work.
 
This has been a great experience for me and the rest of the team.  We are in good spirits and eager to keep helping.  Indoor plumbing really helps keep moral up!
All good with EPE here!                                                                  
 
Wed 11/7/2012 10:13 AM
It’s snowing! And we are being evacuated from tent city due to the high winds (60mph). Waves 8-10 feet high and up to 6 inches of snow expected.

At this point the biggest risk is losing power again.

Long Beach Island remains off limits to residents.

Mandatory evacuations underway for several New Jersey shore towns.

Red Cross building shelters and distributing more meals.

600,000 in NY, CT and NJ still out of power.
66,415 Conn Ed customers still out of power.

At this point we are trying to find a sporting goods store to buy rain pants for the guys.

Wed 11/7/2012 9:37 AM
UPDATE!!
We are being evacuated from tent city at 3 pm because of high winds.  Steve is helping a lot.  He got us rooms for a week - 14 rooms. But we don’t get them until Friday. Till then don't know. 

It’s snowing!   SOS

Wed 11/7/2012 8:17 AM
Good morning and yo, how ya doin’?

It’s colder than yesterday and winds are picking up.  Many flights are being cancelled from noon today to noon tomorrow.  If I see someone in shorts today...it’s on!

The guys this morning said they used all the hot water at the hotel. They are in a much better mood and for this I am grateful.

A resident in the area where we are working has offered to bring us pizza for lunch.  Great since all we have been eating is sandwiches that we pick up on our way out of tent city.  Funny thing about NY residents they don't want to give us their name or be in photos. 

Steve Wertheimer, an El Paso Electric board member, called me this morning.  Turns out he lives near where we are working.  He has offered to put a dinner together for our guys and is helping me with the room situation.  That is very nice of him. We are working on the details. I love the way people are showing us the love!!!!

We were able to get our hotel for one more night with one extra room, which is a blessing. We are still trying to get rooms for the assessors. We don't ever see them.  They work at night and when we leave they are still not back. Crazy I have sent them messages to call me so that I can join the group on Saturday night.  They are sleeping right now.

We are about to energize and move to next job.  Will keep you posted.  We’re going to Kempner Lane and Oak Valley Lane. 

I am trying to stay out of the way and am taking orders from all of them.  It’s like being married!  Bring me this, do this, we need you here, go talk to those people, do your job....dang!
 
All in fun and it keeps us going.

p.s. I will now scratch New York off my bucket list. I’ve seen enough.

Tue 11/6/2012 5:33 PM
Night time thoughts.
              
Yo.....how ya doin’?
 
8 days with no power in New Jersey. PSEG is bringing in more help from electric companies around the country. We are told there are 190,000 homes without power in New Jersey. A storm is coming and expected to hit there first.  Mandatory evacuations taking place as I write.
 
Some airlines are suspending air travel from noon tomorrow to noon Thursday.

working crew
 
In the tri-state area, the storm is expected to bring rain, high winds and some coastal flooding. We are wondering how much of the work that we've done will be affected by the storm tomorrow. If power goes down again, I will cry.
 
Con Ed said they still have 106,886 customers out, so that means that about 90 percent is in...for now.
 
While working today, we finally saw some residents returning to their homes. It seemed like everyone had left their homes to stay with family or friends who had power.  They were so happy to see us and couldn't believe we were from Texas, and no, we all don't ride horses.
 
Today the guys are being treated to a hot shower and a real bed thanks to an EPE Supervisor who saw that the lack of sleep and the body aches from the bed racks were taking a toll.  I don't think I've ever seen them so excited when we told them about the rooms.  Most companies have found accommodations for their crews. Since the beginning of this experience, we’ve only been able to locate 8 rooms for one night only.  Tomorrow we are out and it’s back to the semi truck, unless something else changes. It seems everyone has beaten us to the punch on getting rooms.
 
Memory of the day:
 
OK, on a side note, today I’m getting some stuff for the guys and I’m bundled up with: long-johns, sweat-shirt, EPE shirt, jacket and my pull-up cover pants, gloves, boots, ear muffs and hat. And the first thing I see...a guy in the store running around in shorts!
 
Say a little prayer for us and send the storm away.
 
I hope you are enjoying the photos I am sending.
 
Tired....going to bed as I am sure the guys are.
 
Night.

Tue 11/6/2012 7:14 AM
Morning notes.

People continue to be frustrated.  Lack of electricity has taken a back seat to sewage, and the clean-up efforts.  We continue to stay the course with restoring power.
 
It’s 34 degrees and again the wind is kicking up.

Many Manhattan residents are still without power.

Schools are closed today for voting and it seems people are really turning out to vote.  I wish El Pasoans would turn out and vote like this!

In Queens, the polling sites are using a generator and the lines are super long.  They truly understand the power of a vote. Governor Cuomo signed an emergency order to allow New Yorkers to vote anywhere in New York.

Raw sewage, rodents, and spoiled food are causing concern to officials and residents.

Medical tents are being setup.  Doctors are available to help with injuries, cuts, sprains etc.  I hope we don’t need their services.

Today I will try to spend some time with the EPE assessors.  They have been working 7pm to 7am so by the time we get back to camp they are gone.  I’m going to see if I can meet with the EPE assessors and tag along tonight. Wish me luck.

So cold!!

Mon 11/5/2012 8:39 PM
Night time thoughts.

Another long day.  One of the changes made at the staging camp is that they are starting to serve breakfast at 4:30 am, which means the guys are getting up earlier and hitting the field in record time.

It seem that gas shortages have taken top billing in the news lately and some people are bringing in gas from other locations and selling it for $8 a gallon...WOW!

Today there was a lot of bucket work.  The winds were kicking up, and the storm may be coming soon.  They are expecting wind, rain and snow on Wednesday.  Not looking forward to that.

The memory of the day goes to an incident on the way back to camp:

There is nothing worse than having a line of trucks following each other back to the staging ground, turning on a very narrow street and running into a very low drop line.  It was impossible to back up. Oh wait, we’re an electric company!!! So what should we do?  Thinking the obstacle through, we got one of boom trucks to raise the line while the rest of the trucks pass under it.  The power of the electric company!!!

The guys are tired.  Today took a toll on them. They were going straight to bed. When I get to my accommodations, many local residents stop me to tell me how thankful they are that we are here.  It makes me feel proud, but I am so tired that all I could say was "thank you."

Night all.

Mon 11/5/2012 7:26 AM
It’s very cold today and the wind is kicking up.  Last night the guys were treated to coffee, cocoa and donuts provided by residents on the street they were working on.

pulling wire

In El Paso, most of the work is done with bucket trucks, but this work requires a lot of climbing, tree chopping and pulling.

EPE crews are sleeping, eating and showering at Playland Amusement Park in Rye, NY.

General information:

  • 730,000 still without power - getting better.
  • 418,019 customers still out on Long Island.
  • Ferry service has resumed.
  • Power has been restored to most of lower Manhattan.
  • Ports of New York and New Jersey have reopened.
  • Most schools are opening today.  Kids have been asking crews not to restore power so that they don't have to go back to school... crazy kids.

EPE crew is working in Brewster for the next two days.

crew walking away

That's it for now.  It’s amazing that our guys still have the energy to laugh and tease one another at the end of the day.

Also on a personal note: God Bless the person who invented Long-johns. :)  Once I figured out how to wear them, they became my new best friend.

Sun 11/4/2012 6:54 AM
Some thoughts and information this morning.

Storm coming in today.   They are expecting coastal flooding with 50 mph winds.
Today's high is expected to be 48 degrees and we're also expecting a very cold night.  With the wind chill factor, it's about 37 degrees right now.

Lines at gas stations continue to grow at the few stations that are open.  Some crews have to drive 40 minutes to the nearest gas station. 

The Sandy aftermath

  • People with generators are not able to get gasoline.  They are very upset and are following gas tankers.  A $30 limit has been set per driver. They also have an odd/even license plate system in place where you can only get gasoline on certain days.  It's kind of like our watering program.
  • There have been 110 deaths reported, 47 of those are in New York.
  • 90 percent of subways are up and running, but not stopping in some areas.
  • 900,000 people still without power.

on bucket

Salt water has started to corrode electric substations, and experts are being flown in to assess the problem.

Other crews are very curious about us and ask lots of questions about Mexico. They probably think we all live in haciendas and ride horses...lol.

Trying to keep morale up and help our guys deal with the conditions. So I am singing, "Down in west Texas town of El Paso"  every chance I get.  Our EPE crews are all doing well.   Of course, we think we are the best team out here..and oh wait...WE ARE!  So proud of our guys and they are my true heroes.

That's all for now...

Sat 11/3/2012 8:39 PM
The EPE assessors are working through the night meeting at Conn Ed headquarters to get their assignments.  Unfortunately, the rental cars they have only have half a tank of gas and there is no gas to be found.  Most gas stations are closed and the ones that are open have lines so long I was unable to see the end.  The EPE damage assessors are so important because they are able to tell the crews what they need for the next day and what obstacles are in the way, of which there are many.  They are assessing for all crews in the area.

There is also an outbreak of deer ticks.  I am going to try to find deet tomorrow for our guys. They say it helps keep the ticks away. 

EPE lineman are assigned tomorrow morning to a location 10 minutes away from the staging area.  The location was hard hit and will require two crews and a tree trimming company must prepare the area first before the crews can start the work.  They crews are expected to start at 6:30am and are expected to work until 8 pm.

lodging

Our EPE crews are getting settled into what I can best describe as an old-time train sleeping car.  They were given a sleeping bag and a pillow for each bunk.  Port-a-jons are located outside with one trailer set up for showers.  It's very cold but everyone seems to have brought the right gear.  Unfortunately one of our crew members had their jacket stolen. 

I guess that's it for now.  Night.

Sat 11/3/2012 3:39 PM
We are attending a safety briefing before we start work.  The Con Edison distribution system covers 604 square miles, contains an estimated population of 9,100,000, and includes the five boroughs of New York City and Westchester County.

EPE is assigned to Westchester County.

  • population 940,807
  • customers 342,909

No lights for 5 days!

Con Edison has a great staging area ...in a amusement park ...
There's a huge tent for meals, wash stations, and a control center.  I am impressed with the signage and how easy it is to find things.

Sat 11/3/2012 10:09 AM

on the planeGood morning ...we are up and away.
Once we were settled in our seats the captain of Delta Flight 2086 came on the intercom and recognized the employees from El Paso Electric who were on their way to restore power after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.  Everyone gave us a big hand.  Wow, what a feeling.