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Eversource crews return home after helping to restore Fla. power

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 20. 2017 9:12PM
Jay Yergeau, left, senior supervisor of electric operations, and Marc Geaumont, director of field operations, talk in Hooksett on Wednesday about leading a group of 131 Eversource linemen and workers to help Florida with Hurricane Irma damage. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

After they helped restore power to her hurricane-ravaged neighborhood near Melbourne, Fla., a little girl approached a group of Eversource workers in a Walmart parking lot to thank them.

“Not too many dry eyes,” Jay Yergeau, Eversource’s senior supervisor of electric operations, recalled Wednesday.

The gesture “melted just about everyone’s heart,” said Yergeau, who returned Tuesday.

Eversource sent 131 workers, including 33 from New Hampshire, along with about 70 vehicles to Florida to help restore power cut by Hurricane Irma.

“Some people brought over chips and soda,” said Yergeau, a 14-year utility veteran. “There was a lot of happy people that we were down there.”

Crews got to see EPCOT — from the parking lot, where they parked their trucks with the Walt Disney World park closed.

Yergeau said he encountered the worst weather in Georgia, heading south. “Very tough driving, slippery conditions, very windy.”

Marc Geaumont, director of field operations for Eversource in New Hampshire, said some trucks needed to detour and scout out gas stations in Georgia to find fuel.

Crews wanted to stay until the power was restored everywhere, but needed to head back to be available to take care of any outages in New England from Tropical Storm Jose.

“Every one of them wanted to turn the lights back on,” Geaumont said.

Crews get extra pay for the long days, which averaged 17 hours. But Geaumont said being away from their families still makes it hard for people like Yergeau, who was away from his month-old son Ethan for 11 days.

“He’s one of 131 stories like that,” Geaumont, a nearly 30-year veteran, said.

Damaging ice storms — not hurricanes — have triggered some of New Hampshire’s largest power outages in recent decades.

“The main difference for me is you can dress up for the winter,” Yergeau said. “You can’t dress down in this position for the conditions that we had down there,” with temperatures in the upper 90s and oppressive humidity in Melbourne.

Workers are rarely surprised by any storms.

“Every person who works at Eversource, or any electrical utility, they’re part-time weather people, too,” Geaumont said.

No one knows yet whether Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico on Wednesday, will strike the United States, forcing another mobilization.

“We’re feeling for the people in Puerto Rico right now,” Geaumont said of the storm. “We certainly hope it goes out to sea and dies a nice, natural death.”

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