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March 2023

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Hazards & Heroes

From blizzards to tornadoes, floods, and even an earthquake, winter got off to a ferocious start around the country, stealing line workers from their families over the holidays and keeping crews busy for weeks. Mother Nature delivered a one-two punch in upstate New York, with three days of paralyzing snow Dec. 16-18 and a brutal second act that locked down Buffalo and its surroundings over Christmas. On the West Coast, a magnitude-6.4 earthquake punctured gas lines and downed wires in Eureka on Dec. 20, with aftershocks felt more than 300 miles away. But the worst was yet to come in California. Starting New Year's Eve, an atmospheric river brought 10 days of epic rain, snow and wicked winds. Mudslides and wires catching on fallen trees made restoration tricky on slippery hillsides, Vacaville Local 1245 reported. As one PG&E lineman described, "If you put something down, it rolls away. … We're having to make the trips back and forth from the pole 20 or 30 times because of the amount of stuff that's on the ground." Meanwhile, a series of tornadoes tore through the South, causing power outages from Texas to the Carolinas in January, hitting Selma, Ala., especially hard. "Winter is a testament to the grit and dedication of our utility workers," said International President Kenneth W. Cooper. "They brave the bitterest of conditions to get the power and heat back on."


Early winter brought one disaster after another for Vacaville Local 1245 crews at PG&E in California, starting with a Dec. 20 earthquake and 10 days of torrential rain and high winds to kick off January. Top, crews get drenched amid ancient coastal redwoods. Above, repairing wind damage in South San Francisco. Right, workers dig deep to fix one of the gas leaks caused by the magnitude-6.4 quake in Eureka. Photos by John Storey, courtesy of Local 1245.




Massena, N.Y., Local 2032 lineman Randy Arquiett left home at 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve for days of repairs in dangerous, frigid weather in upstate New York, where it snowed the entire time his crew was on the road east of Buffalo. "We drove through snow like I'd never seen before," he said. "It was absolutely unbelievable." His photo at right captures two of his Local 2032 brothers at work before sunrise on Dec. 27. Above, a National Grid photo sets the scene.



More than 100 twisters ripped through the South in January, with the deadliest of the storms hitting Alabama and Georgia on Jan. 12. Some of the worst damage was in Selma, as seen above in an Alabama Power picture showing IBEW crews at work. In the photo at right, Montgomery Local 801 members Stuart Smith and David Moore take a break from the Selma recovery to help a child with his bicycle. The company shared it on social media, saying, "Our crews fixed more than power lines today." Customers' comments were filled with gratitude and love for the linemen.