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PSO linemen in Florida working long hours helping restore power after Hurricane Ian

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With limited materials and nourishment, Public Service Company of Oklahoma crews are putting in 16- to 18-hour work days to restore power in Florida after Hurricane Ian, a company supervisor said from there Friday.

“We’re a little bit east of Orlando, Florida,” said Travis Andrews, PSO distribution system supervisor. “We’re working on several broken poles right now, several spans of wire down.”

More than 2.6 million utility customers in Florida were without power at the height of the outages, and the website poweroutage.us reported that more than 1.57 million remained without electricity Friday evening.

“I’m sure we’ll be here for a few days,” Andrews said.

PSO has three crews in Florida comprising 150 personnel from Lawton, McAlester and Tulsa, he said.

Andrews discussed the conditions in which the workers are living but said they are keeping up their good spirits.

“We are going to a semi-trailer tonight to sleep in bunk beds,” Andrews said. “We’re working 16 to 18 hours a day. Weather is not too bad — 85 degrees.”

But finding something to eat is difficult, as most of the establishments where the workers have tried to find food are closed, he said.

“We just tried to get some lunch, and all the lunch places are closed. There was no food in Walmart, so we found a few bags of chips,” he said.

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Other than everything being “super wet down here” and a lot of traffic, “we’re doing good,” he added.

PSO crews are working closely with Tampa Electric Co., or TECO, which is directing the Oklahoma team on where to go and what to do.

“They tell us when to show up; they give us a contact who we work for,” Andrews said. “We’re working for a TECO lineman right now, and we go through him for everything. If we have to go get materials, if we want to energize a line — we’ve got to go through him.”

It takes a village to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, Andrews said.

“Seeing how these storms operate, from material to people to lodging to eating and stuff, it takes a lot of people, and you never realize how many people it takes to get the job done,” Andrews said. “We’re out here in the field, but there’s a lot of people behind the scenes that are taking care of us, as well.”

The mutual assistance agreement between Florida and Oklahoma is an understanding that they will be there for each other in times of great need.

“We’ve had people from Florida come to Oklahoma and help us back in the ‘07 ice storm,” Andrews said. “It’s just nice to be able to reach out, and we’re happy to come down here and help them.”

On Friday, PSO crews were working on three feeder lines, which are part of the distribution grid.

“We’re anticipating getting all three of those feeders on tonight,” Andrews said. “I don’t know how many people that will affect, but it will affect I’m sure a couple thousand.”

Despite any obstacles they face, the crews keep up their good spirits working together as a team.

“The group that I’m with, the Tulsa District, the morale is great,” Andrews said. “This group of guys that we got have really done great, and I couldn’t ask for better men.”

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I’m a breaking news reporter, covering crime and other spot news. I graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree in 2021 before joining the Tulsa World. Send tips to news@tulsaworld.com

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