SVE linemen restore power in East
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
Line by line and house by house, six linemen from South Dakota spent the past two weeks with thousands of others restoring power for Long Island residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the snowstorm that followed.
Sioux Valley Energy linemen who spent the past two weeks on Long Island helping to restore power were (left) Steve Neises, Bob Johnson, Chad Collins and Elliott Osterkamp.
The crew included four linemen from Sioux Valley Energy -- Bob Johnson and Elliott Ostercamp from the Brandon office, Chad Collins and Steve Neises from the Colman office. They were joined by two from Dakota Energy in Huron -- Robert Feldhaus and Brandon Moore. The SVE linemen sat down and visited about their experience Tuesday morning (today). They said they went with the preconceived notion that Long Island would be more city-like with not many trees and lots of pavement.
What they found were endless neighborhoods, most of which had a privacy fence and pool in the back yard. No alleyways separated the back yards of the houses and there was no shortage of trees, which turned out to be the culprit in line breaks throughout the system.
The majority of the power was overhead lines, coupled with a number of other services that included cable, fiberoptics and telephone lines. Those lines, they said, wove through the trees bringing power to homes.
The damage was consistent with straight line winds or tornado damage in the Midwest, they said, but finding the breaks in the lines was time-consuming.
"One hundred percent of the damage was trees," Collins said.
While regular tree trimming may have helped the situation, Johnson said, that wasn't a cost the Long Island Power Authority was willing to cover.
The first two or three hours of the day were spent walking the line to find the breaks; the rest of the day was spent fixing. Collins said the first few days were 18-hour days, but they tapered back to 16 hours when their supervisor was reprimanded for working the crews so hard.
But when the workers said they preferred completing a job that day instead of returning the next day for a couple more hours, their supervisor John Reed, agreed with that philosophy.
Neises said each day seemed to end with power restoration complete and another satisfied homeowner, each of which was surprisingly nice and helpful. Some loaned tools to the crew, others provided coffee and treats, and at least one just had to know what they were doing no matter where they were.
"They were willing to give you whatever they could," Neises said. "They were happy when they knew you were there until the power was on."
Some residents expressed surprise that a crew would come from South Dakota to help them.
When power was restored to the first block, residents could be heard cheering.
"I had my doubts about being out there," Johnson said. "But after that first day, it made the whole thing worth it."
For this crew, every day seemed like a good day when power could be restored to a few more residents.
"It was kind of addicting wanting to get people back on," Neises said. "You get to know people and by the end of the day, we wanted to get the homeowner on."
The South Dakota crew's focus was power recovery and, although directed by one LIPA official to simply reconnect the main line, they took extra time on site to make sure the homes were also connected.
At least one homeowner, Nancy Bazzicalupo, sent her thanks directly to the SVE CEO, relaying appreciation to the SVE crew who not only disconnected power in the neighborhood so an electrician could reconnect power to their house, but returned later and spliced in an extra four feet of line so power could be reconnected.
"We got power back after 10 long days and nights," said Bazzicalupo in her e-mail. "They all laughed when I said that it was the first time I had ever seen angels dressed in fluorescent green!"