AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin Energy crew spent a week helping Floridians pick up the pieces after Hurricane Ian, and for some, it was an emotional experience.
Ian made its Florida landfall as a Category 4 on the southwest coast of the state in late September.
A team of 17 Austin Energy lineworkers and support personnel left for Florida on Sept. 28 and returned earlier this month. The crew took six bucket trucks, three digging derricks and 12 support vehicles with them to help restore power.
The Austin Energy employees first worked in Jacksonville in the northern part of Florida before heading three hours south to Bartow in the central part of the state, Austin Energy said.
Austin Energy Distribution Electrician Crew Leader Landry Bertsch said, during their time in Florida, they saw a lot of devastation from the storm, including broken power poles, downed trees, flooding and high-wind damage.
Bertsch said it was his first time going out of town to help with disaster year relief. He’s been a lineman for 16 years and has been with Austin Energy for four of those.
He said the crew faced some challenges: having other utility companies working in their zone and reusing damaged materials.
“The shortage of supplies in the country was even seen during a hurricane restoration. We reused everything we could. They didn’t have a lot,” he said.
Even with those challenges, Bertsch said a lot of utility companies collaborated on the effort, and it was rewarding to help out in Florida.
“They were excited to see us. The emotion that they had when we got their electricity back on was something that I experienced for the first time …. it was very gratifying. What we do for a living, that’s why we do it — to see the people excited to get electricity after being out,” Bertsch said.
The team returned to Austin on Oct. 5, according to Austin Energy.
Austin Energy was asked to help in Florida by the American Public Power Association and, in the past, has helped the Jacksonville Electric Association with hurricane recovery.