Submitted Tri-County Electric linemen cross a flooded waterway to repair a line in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence.


Tri-County Electric linemen cross a flooded waterway to repair a line in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence.

"We're going to get back home to our families … we leave together ... we come back together."

Tri-County Electric Line Foreman Anthony Carter's crew kept that mantra in mind and returned to Lafayette on Sept. 20 after a week spent repairing damage that Hurricane Florence left in North Carolina.

Eight men volunteered for the effort, representing Lafayette, Westmoreland and Scottsville, Kentucky. While in North Carolina, they traveled with employees from local co-ops to affected areas and worked to restore power to thousands of homes and customers.

"We were there at kind of the tail end of (the storm)," Carter said. "They had rope poles and wires down. That was the main thing. It was raining terrible, and the flooding was awful. We actually had to put some lines back up from out of a boat, where they were down across lakes. I asked (about) one particular place where we went. He said, most of the time, you can just walk across it on foot."

According to Lineman First Class Alan Carman, the damage became more visible as they traveled through town.

"The storm had slowed down, so we actually had to wait a day before we could do anything," Carman said. "Later on, we went farther in, and there was more damage there. They took us to a dam that was overflowing, and they told us on one side it was normally about 100 feet to the water, and on the other side, about 30."

North Carolina residents without power welcomed the crew, with Carman noting that many people came up to thank them individually.

"There's nothing that makes me happier, especially when you have people whose lights have been out for five or six days and they see your trucks pull up," Carter said. "They come out, and they're clapping, and it just brings joy to your heart. One guy, his lights had been out for several days, and he'd actually worked 30 years for the electric company, Duke Energy. That kind of bonded us a little bit, because he'd been where I was."

Tri-County Area Supervisor Jerry Wilmore, who helped put together the group of volunteers, said that linemen often assist other co-ops affected by natural disasters.

"During a tornado and ice storm, we had a lot of outside co-ops come in and help us," Wilmore said. "It's like a neighborly thing, I guess you could say.

"It's enjoyable to go to other places and help them. I've been to two hurricanes, two ice storms and one tornado in my 43 years at Tri-County."

For some of the linemen, the trip marked their first time responding to a storm, and Carter said that they rose to the occasion.

"I took a really great crew out there," Carter said. "Those guys work really hard and did a really good job. There were some guys I took that had never been on a storm. They're excited and ready to go, because they've never experienced anything like that before ... just like a kid for Christmas."

According to Carman, each of the linemen showed a strong work ethic during the week, from the younger ones to the seasoned veterans.

"Everybody that went … they don't go to sit around and just make money," Carman said. "They go to get it done. Any time we go on a storm, we pride ourselves on really getting after it. We're going to do everything we can to get our job done."

Carter said that the people they met as they traveled through the co-op were the most memorable part of the experience.

"The thing that amazed me the most is how gracious and thoughtful the people were out there," Carter said. "It reminded me of being back here in Lafayette. Even the guys we went out to help at that electric company were just like us … down-home, good people, and that's the biggest thing."