Progress Energy is sending more than 800 company and contract workers from the Carolinas and Florida to Texas to assist utilities there with expected damage and power outages from Hurricane Ike.
The company's deployment of 385 employees and 437 contract personnel is larger than deployments made in support of utilities in Louisiana and Texas after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Workers are expected to be in Texas supporting utilities there for at least two weeks, based on anticipated damage, as well as lingering effects in the region from Hurricane Gustav.
Progress Energy is sending a total of 380 people from Florida and 442 from the Carolinas. The teams include company line and service crews, transmission line technicians and support personnel, as well as contract line and tree crews, along with vehicles and equipment. Some contract crews have already begun the trip, which is 800 to 1,200 miles, depending on the crew's departure location. Company crews will be leaving from numerous locations Sunday morning and will report to various locations next week, based on the storm's impact.
Progress Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Florida are members of the Southeastern Electric Exchange (SEE), a group of investor-owned electric utility companies in the region. Utilities in the SEE support other members, as needed, following major storms. Progress Energy has sent crews from the Carolinas and Florida to storm-damaged areas numerous times through the years, including large-scale deployments to Texas and Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and, most recently, in support of a devastating ice storm in Oklahoma in December 2007.
Progress Energy and its customers also have benefited from the company's SEE membership after major storms, with crews and contractors from numerous other Southeastern utilities coming to the Carolinas and Florida to assist after hurricanes and winter storms, including the major hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004.
"Having these mutual-assistance agreements in place has helped us and our customers many times over the years," said Bill Johnson, chairman, CEO and president of Progress Energy. "Hurricane Ike is expected to cause widespread damage and power outages in east Texas, and our employees and contractors will be an important part of helping that area recover. We hope we won't need other utilities' assistance anytime soon, but our customers can rest assured that if and when major storms affect our service areas, we will get assistance from our peers in other states."
Progress Energy is a six-time winner of industry storm-response awards from the Edison Electric Institute.
"With all the coastline and area we manage in Florida and the Carolinas, we have a lot of experience in preparing for, and recovering from, major storms," Johnson said. "We also learn from each deployment, and we use each as an opportunity to refine our own storm plan to make our response even better for our own customers. As always, our number-one objective is to have all of our people return home safely when their work is completed."
Crews working in support of other utilities' restoration efforts are paid by the utility requesting service. Progress Energy customers in the Carolinas and Florida will not bear any of the cost of the assistance.
The deployment to Texas will not affect the company's ability to respond to outages or service needs within its service areas. The company is maintaining crews in all parts of Progress Energy's service areas and can recall crews from Texas if a new major storm threatens Florida or the Carolinas.