SALT LAKE CITY — In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, power crews from across the country worked day and night to get the lights back on for millions of people who lost electricity. After 15 days of that emergency work in New Jersey, Rocky Mountain Power crews returned home Friday.
Two managers and 16 linemen flew to New Jersey to use their expertise to help people in dire need. These men average about 30 years on the job, but none of them had ever seen anything like what they saw on the East Coast.
"I don't think I've ever encountered a situation of this magnitude in my entire career with Rocky Mountain Power," said Manager Todd Lindley.
They worked in thickly forested neighborhoods in the central New Jersey communities of Milburn and Short Hills. When they pulled up in their trucks, they said poles were down and they weren't sure at first where to start.
They began resetting poles and transformers, street after street.
And unlike some of the anger and frustration we've seen in other communities, the linemen say people there greeted them with gratitude.
"It's a joy to see all those people, they're grateful when it comes on. They took great care of us the whole time we were out there," said Lineman Cody Swenson.
Often, their work goes unnoticed. On this job, however, they were thanked with doughnuts, coffee and pizza — and even hugs and kisses. Many homeowners, without power for ten days, needed emotional support, too.
"They're really laying a lot of their emotions out and you have to be consoling to them and reassure them that you are going to get their power on," said Lineman Paul Garcia.
Especially when they were on the verge of losing hope.
"That was hard on me to see people go without power that long and see them just bawling to you, and wanting help," said Lineman Todd Horton.
They worked 16 hours on, eight off, and even worked through a snowstorm. But, knew they were making a difference.
"The last person we got on, the husband told us that they got up that morning and it was his anniversary," said Crew Foreman Dee Schumers. "And (his wife) said, ‘what do you mean?' And he said, ‘We've been without power for two weeks. It's our two week anniversary.' "
Those workers say they'd volunteer to go again. They also say the experience has made them reassess their own emergency power situation at home.