In the right circumstances,
ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I’d like to submit
another brand of hero — the
rural electric lineman. As I toured parts of the state that were hard-hit
by the January ice storm I saw many, many heroes who braved bitter
cold, long hours and dangerous working conditions to restore power
to people they did not even know.
These linemen came
from the local systems and from electric cooperatives as far away as
the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They left behind warm homes and loved ones
as soon as they were summoned.
In fact, I recently
learned that Mississippi’s
electric cooperatives had linemen on the way to Missouri just two
hours after they were called. Later, additional linemen headed north
with just 10 minutes notice.
They came from Arkansas,
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, also. Of course, every
unaffected co-op in Missouri responded in some way. Some of these men
worked long hours restoring power at their own systems, then hit the
road to help neighboring co-ops. In all, 2,622 linemen worked the disaster.
meant nothing to these men. Their workday began at 5 a.m. and many
did not get to bed until after midnight. They worked these awful
hours not just one day, but for many days and in the worst conditions
you can imagine. The linemen from Mississippi were quick to tell us
they had never restored power in such difficult conditions. In fact,
they told one cooperative they would rather work 15 hurricanes than
one Missouri ice storm.
the only heroes who rose to the occasion. I wish every electric co-op
member could have looked behind the scenes to see what took place on
At the 15 electric
cooperatives severely damaged by the ice, every employee was mobilized
to restore power. Some stayed by the phones, others labored to feed
the hundreds of additional workers and do their laundry. Some handled
media inquiries and gave daily progress reports to community leaders.
Still others worked
the phones in search of scarce materials like wire, poles and hardware.
The 15 managers did their part to keep morale high and prioritized
safety for employees and the public.
There were many others
involved in the effort who deserve our thanks. I’m
thinking of the many state employees who worked behind the scenes
on behalf of those without power.
Our governor Matt
Blunt helped by making the disaster declaration, which is vital to
getting reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
U.S. Reps. Roy Blunt and Ike Skelton are helping with FEMA reimbursement.
Blunt traveled to Ozark Electric to see the damage first hand. Skelton
scheduled a meeting with co-op managers to see what he could do.
Patrol and MoDOT employees helped get permits so we could move heavy
equipment across state lines. The National Guard was heavily involved
in the relief effort, as was the Red Cross. The State Emergency Management
Agency stayed close to the affected systems and kept all of us working
together with frequent conference calls.
Our electric cooperative
restoration effort benefited from the strong leadership shown by
Director of Agriculture Fred Ferrell and Public Service Commission
Chairman Jeff Davis. Both men worked tirelessly to provide support,
encouragement, and resources not only to the electric cooperatives
but for all utilities. We will never forget what they did to help
To all these heroes,
we extend a huge thank you. Without their assistance, the outages could
have lasted a lot longer because of the worst ice storm in Missouri
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.