Carlsbad man on Xcel crew that helped restore power to New York after hurricane's devastation
Nov 18, 2012 (Menafn - Carlsbad Current-Argus - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --On Oct. 3, four days after Hurricane Sandy finished her rampage through the New York region last month, a convoy of 30 Xcel Energy trucks carrying equipment and crews converged on Long Island's community of Plainview. Among them were four Xcel employees from Carlsbad.
Xcel Energy Field Operations Supervisor Dustin Taylor, who is based in Carlsbad, said when the call for help was put out, he and Carlsbad co-workers Michael Suggs, Michael Munoz and Matt DePew raised their hands to go.
"For us it's the norm," Taylor said. "Whenever, wherever there is a need, we go. It's something we do for a living. I would expect if something catastrophic happened in Carlsbad, we would have the same response. We initially were sent to Virginia, but when we got there, everything was under control. So we were sent to Long Island."
Taylor said the Xcel contingent drove a total of 2,300 miles to Long Island. When they arrive, they found a lot of poles and lines down and some people were angry.
"Not all the people had bad attitudes over not having power restored quickly. But there were some. Their anger was against LIPA, the power company there. But the way I see it, what happened on Long Island and other areas in New York, was caused by a natural disaster. No one can control Mother Nature. It wouldn't have mattered if LIPA had an old or new system. Mother Nature would have taken it down."
Taylor said while Plainview was not in great shape after the hurricane, it was not as bad as some areas on Long Island such as the south and north shores. But added to the misery, about 8 inches of snow fell while he and the Xcel crews were there. "Everything we fixed the day before the snow came down, we had to redo," Taylor said.
While he does not want the accolades, a column in a Long Island newspaper written by a Plainview resident, details Taylor and his crew's willingness to help residents in extreme need.
According to the author of the column, Jud Newborn, his 86-year-old mother, frail and bed-ridden, was in dire need of her electricity being restored. His mother, he said, depends on a "wound-vac," an electric device that prevents infection by drawing fluids from an ulcer at the base of her spine. When the super-storm knocked out the power at the home he shares with his mother, he called the local utility company and explained his mother's medical situation.
Meanwhile, his brother charged the device by stringing an extension cord outside to his vehicle's cigarette lighter. Their mother's physician also advised that the temperature in the home cannot fall below 70 degrees. They used boiling water on the gas stove and burned candles to keep the room temperature at the recommended level.
Newborn wrote that the day after the storm hit, LIPA technicians visited the neighbors across the street, where a downed power line was arcing wildly. He said when the technician was asked by him to look at the power outage at their home, the technician said he would be there in five minutes.
"It was just a blown fuse in a transformer on a backyard pole. But it had grown dark and the technician, who we told of the medical emergency, had to leave. No technician returned," Newborn states.
On Election Day last week, Newborn said he saw a utility crew not far from his polling precinct and stopped to explain his mother's situation. The crew was from Carlsbad and identified as Taylor and DePew.
"Dustin Taylor whipped out a Plainview map, pointed to our street and told me, "We'll be there soon as we can, buddy. We'll check it out," Newborn said, adding that 10 minutes after he returned home, he found Taylor and DePew there and they had power back on.
"They replaced an electrical connection and reset the transformer," Newborn noted in the Newsday column. " Thank God we got it from a couple of gallant utility workers from elsewhere who showed more brains, heart and competence that anything I'd seen from LIPA."
When asked about the situation the Newborn family found itself in, Taylor said, "Where we come from, we work as a team. LIPA works differently. Each person has a special job and that's the only thing they will do. It's their way."
Taylor said while Hurricane Sandy's aftermath caused devastation and misery, it's not the worst he has seen.
"It was different there and we were only away from home for 15 days. When we went to Oklahoma to help after an ice storm, people there were without power for weeks, not days. We helped out after a windstorm in Seminole where they had 100 mph winds. There, we worked 24/7 for three weeks getting the power restored," Taylor said.
He said the hardest part of being away to help restore power after a natural disaster is being away from family.
"Everyone that went to New York was a volunteer. When you go you never know how long you are going to be away. I've missed my kids' birthdays and other family events, as have other crew members. But our families understand why we go and what we do," Taylor said. "On this trip, I had 33 of the best linemen in the country with me. We took care of what we went to do and we took the time to do it well."
Gary Lakey, Xcel Energy director of distribution operations in New Mexico and Texas, said the company is proud of the employees from New Mexico and Texas who sacrificed the time away from their families and daily routines to help their fellow Americans. "They worked safely and have represented the value of their home communities and this company in an exemplary fashion," Lakey said in a written statement. "They will never forget these experiences, and the people they helped will never forget them. The good people of Long Island now know what we've known for years -- Xcel Energy employees are second to none."
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