CPS Energy travels far and near to put People First
By: Nora Castro
Catastrophe can arrive in a number of ways: fire, tornado or earthquake. But for the residents living along the Texas and Florida coastlines, it arrived in the form of hurricanes. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma unleashed their fury to these areas and caused severe damage to countless homes and businesses in their path.
These coastal communities were among the hardest hit by these super storms, bringing wide-spread devastation, flooding, downed trees and powerlines. The destruction caused extended power outages that posed problems for small towns and big cities alike, including Victoria, Texas and Jacksonville, Florida. Restoring electric service is the crucial first step in the recovery process.
Even before these communities lost power, CPS Energy was preparing to assist where needed. Once the request for mutual assistance was received from American Electric Power Texas (AEP) and the Texas Mutual Assistance Group to assist with restoration efforts, CPS Energy dispatched a crew of 53 men and women with a variety of skillsets to provide a diverse layer of support, ranging from safety experts to linemen and fleet teams.
“It’s important that when we arrive, we have all the equipment and support services we need so we can focus on the work ahead,” said Rudy Garza, Senior VP Distribution Services & Operations. “So there’s a significant support system that needs to go on any mutual aid effort.”
The team arrived in Schulenburg, a command center and staging area set up by AEP Texas, on a mission to help restore power to the victims quickly and safely. They were then dispatched to Victoria and later to Bloomington, where they repaired lines, replaced poles and transformers, and trimmed trees to not only restore power but help restore order to the storm-ravaged communities. Despite the 15-hour work days, often amid heat, mud and mosquitos, the crew was happy to be able to help their neighbors in need.
“Overall, we restored power to over 3,000 Texans and repaired miles of distribution lines,” said Richard Lujan, director of Northwest Service District. “Our team’s work ethic, skill, efficiency and productivity stood out among our sister utilities and contractors. We were recognized by American Electric Power for our performance throughout the duration of our stay.”
A couple of weeks later, Hurricane Irma made her debut in Florida, leaving the coastline devastated. Crews once again prepared to deploy after receiving the call for assistance from Jacksonville Electric Authority in Florida. A crew of 58 members left San Antonio and travelled across the country to Jacksonville to join other utilities in a huge effort to bring some normalcy to those affected by Hurricane Irma.
“Our response exemplifies our commitment to people and now extends to restoring a community” said Paula Gold-Williams, CPS Energy President & CEO. “In the spirit of helping our neighbors, we are proud to have been asked to support the restoration efforts. It’s great when others recognize our employees’ valuable skills and strong work ethic in restoring power safely, just as they do for the people of Greater San Antonio every day.”
Once our job was completed in Jacksonville, our crew deployed to Key West, one of Florida’s hardest hit areas. This isn’t the first time crews have jumped into action to assist in other parts of the U.S. CPS Energy has helped many times before with restoration efforts following hurricanes, including Rita, Katrina, Ike, Gustav, Dolly and Sandy, just to name a few. Many of our employees have made multiple trips to storm-stricken areas, sometimes spending weeks away from home and loved ones.
“I’ve never been away from my family this long,” said Steven Cansino, distribution trainee and one the 58 crew members deployed to Florida. This deployment could last up to three weeks. During his assignment, Cansino is missing a major milestone in his son Derek’s life. Derek turned 10 and Cansino missed the celebration for the first time. “Dad’s going to miss your birthday party but you know dad is going out there to help these kids that don’t have power and can’t play with their toys, like you can,” Cansino explained to Derek.
“It’s heartbreaking that I can’t be there,” Cansino said. But like the Cansino family, the rest of the team and the countless number of first responders and volunteers know that though the decision to leave his family is tough, the need to help others get back on their feet is fundamental in putting People First.
Photo courtesy of CPS Energy