TAMPA, Fla. — While most of us would be doing everything we could to stay away from approaching storms, dozens of workers with Tampa Electric hit the road Monday morning heading toward the projected path of tropical storms Marco and Laura.
Those workers will eventually help restore power in what’s expected to be areas hit hardest by the storms.
But this time, COVID-19 – like with everything else – means some things will have to be done differently.
“This is a one-two punch for those customers, and they are really going to need some help getting that power back on, so, that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said TECO Spokesperson Cherie Jacobs.
TECO is part of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, which is the same group that provided mutual assistance to our area when we got hit by Hurricane Irma.
Now, Entergy Louisiana is the one asking for help.
“That host utility gives us direction on where to go, what to do,” said Jacobs.
When other crews come to our area to help restore power, local utilities pick up the bill. TECO says all the expenses associated with their response will be covered by the utility companies that have asked for their assistance.
In years past, work crews would travel in pairs, share hotel rooms and get together at the end of the workday. But because of COVID-19, they have to maintain social distance.
Instead, everyone is heading out in their own vehicle, “And we’re doing one person to a hotel room instead of bunking up you know, double to a room,” said Jacobs. “Things that used to be in large groups, like meals will be individually boxed and taken separately, so that they’re not gathering in groups.”
TECO says its workers have been practicing social distancing and wearing PPE as needed for several months now so, that’s nothing new for them. And despite challenges created by the pandemic, spirits were still high as they hit the road.
The group’s first stop will be overnight at a hotel in the Florida panhandle. Then Tuesday, they’ll travel wherever they’re asked to stage – likely, someplace around New Orleans.
TECO says its workers are ready to spend up to two weeks in the region. And depending upon what the storms do, and if more help is needed, they are also prepared to send in relief crews as well.
“These guys, they live for this stuff to be able to go and help get customers on whether they are Tampa electric customers or customers of other utilities,” said Jacobs. “You know, when they arrive after a storm it’s like the cavalry has come, and they love being able to help folks get their lights back on.”
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