We Come Alive When There Is A Crisis To Face. I'm no exception. When I realized the magnitude of Hurricane Ike, so immense that its outer boundaries seemed to reach across the whole Gulf, I packed my van and headed south to Texas.
After Ike made landfall, I took the same path the storm had taken, but in the opposite direction. Everywhere I went, I found linemen and tree trimmers doing battle with downed conductors and splintered poles. I traveled solo through Lufkin and Livingston, Texas. Then my friend Gene Wolf joined me, and we worked our way through Houston and Galveston.
AN INDUSTRY IN ACTION
I am so proud of our lineworkers, as well as the guys who pitch the tents and make the meals; so many of them worked from dawn to dusk, trading adrenaline for sleep. We have so many unsung heroes who support the frontline troops. No job is more important than the next — inspectors, dispatchers, foremen, call center operators and warehousemen. Everyone pitches in. People from all over the country willing to set aside their lives to help. We are truly a band of brothers.
Fellow utilities, line contractors and tree-trimming firms brought in assistance on a massive scale; and a massive effort was called for as Hurricane Ike took dead aim on Galveston, inflicting damage all across eastern Texas.
The supply chain was stretched thin, partially due to the materials and supplies already taken out of the system by Hurricane Gustav, which hit Louisiana a few weeks earlier. But the supply line was holding, thanks to factory workers who extended their shifts to nights and weekends to make sure the linemen had the fuses and cutouts, the wire and transformers, and the insulators and connectors they needed.
But I'd like to acknowledge the real unsung heroes, the families without power who had to handle everything on their own, while their loved ones went to do battle.
The following letter was written by Autumn Teague, while her husband, CenterPoint Energy lineman Danny Teague, was doing his part in the Ike restoration effort:
Every wife of a lineman knows of the pride and danger that surrounds the men we love and hold near and dear to our hearts. We occupy our lives with work, family, education and other things to keep our worst fears at bay. I have grown into and married into this family of brothers that I have come to love and respect. I find myself hiding my worst fears from them and myself.
I had a discussion with someone in the parking lot of a grocery store who asked me, “When are the lights going to be on?” I proudly told them that my husband worked for CenterPoint Energy, and he and the rest of the crew are working 16+ hours just to get the power back on. He said, “Well, I bet you have power.”
All emotions ran out of me. I told this man how it really is. I told him that since the storm has come, I am the one to make sure that my kids and I have everything we need because my husband is gone. I start the generator, put the gas in it, go find gas, put the tree back up, check the attic for leaks, cut the grass, maintain the pool, kill the snakes in the backyard, cook for my children, make sure they are bathed and well. My husband has enough energy to take a shower and go to bed. The only thing I have are the prayers that I beg of God to bring him and the rest of the brothers off the pole, out of the bucket, off the street and home to their families.
So many linemen's wives live day in and day out without their loved ones. Everyone should respect what they do for us. My husband does not carry a weapon, he does not pilot a ship or carry out government orders, but every day, he and his brothers risk their lives to ensure that we have the very basics of what we call life. Thank God, and then you better thank a lineman. They care for your family as well as mine. I am the very proud wife of a CenterPoint lineman.
Editor's note: Check out the T&D World Ike blog to see what Rick Bush and Gene Wolf saw as they traversed eastern Texas reporting on the rebuild.