LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Millions of people evacuated as Hurricane Irma made its way to Florida.
But lots of Arkansans are on their way their right now, to help all those people who could, or would not get out of harm’s way. Roughly 100 workers from Entergy Arkansas deployed to Florida to assist in the recovery from Irma.
“It’s dangerous driving down there, it’s dangerous being there, it’s dangerous work they’re doing,” said David Lewis, a spokesman for Entergy Arkansas.
Before they left Little Rock on Sunday morning, roughly 20 of the workers shared a group prayer and words of wisdom.
“Make sure that we look after each other,” advised Jerry Hall, “and we take care of each other.”
Their mission will be to help restore power as Irma heads north. It is some of the most important work in the recovery from a natural disaster.
“You do the work first, very first, that gets the public service facilities such as hospitals, pumping stations, online,” Lewis explained. “And from that, you work on the circuits that will get the largest number of customers on the fastest.”
Hall, an underground supervisor and the leader of this unit, said some of the workers are excited; for others, however, these trips are just part of the job. He mentioned that has deployed to more hurricanes than he can count.
Arkansas Entergy trucks head to help Irma victims
“I can remember Hurricane Hugo,” he said of the storm that hit the Caribbean and U.S. in 1989. “Katrina, I was gone away probably for about 3-4 weeks on that one.”
Hall said it is tough to be away from his family during a disaster mission, but it is rewarding work.
“We are helping people in a time of need,” he mentioned, “and that’s always a good feeling, you know, to be able to go down and help others out. Because the thing is, is that, as we have the ice storms and the tornadoes and things here, they come up and help us and all. So, it’s always good to go and pay back those that have helped you before.”
Another 100 or so workers just got back from southeast Texas, where they helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Some are making the quick turnaround, but most of this crew is fresh and ready to make a difference.
“Electricity is, of course, a fundamental part of everybody’s life in this modern society,” Lewis noted, “so we make it a, we prioritize our lives around getting their power back on as soon as safely possible.”
The workers will spend Sunday night in Mobile, Alabama, before pushing toward Lake City, Florida. From there, Florida Power and Light will direct the crew wherever their effort is most needed.
“The main thing on this storm here,” Hall told his coworkers, “as I say with all storms, is that we want to go down there, we definitely want to be safe. You know, I want to get everyone back here just like you are right now.”
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas is also sending 145 linemen to help their partners in Florida and South Carolina. Some already left, while the rest will head out Monday morning.