Local AEP linemen helping with hurricane cleanup

Published 9:37 am Thursday, September 1, 2011

On Saturday Jerry Osborne unpacked his bags at a hotel in Newport News, Va., for at least one week of what no one would call a vacation.

Since then he and nine other colleagues who work for the Chillicothe District of AEP get up at 5 a.m. and work until 8 at night helping to bring normalcy to the city ravaged by Hurricane Irene.

“There is a lot of damage,” Osborne said in a phone interview Wednesday from Virginia. “The trees are just huge. In areas there are a lot of trees down. In a lot of cases downed utility poles, broken under the weight of the trees.”

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When the crew arrived, there were about 200,000 without power there, said Osborne, who is a line crew supervisor. With him are Shawn Robinson, Tony Medinger and Matt Rowland, all work out of the Ironton garage.

“We will be doing this seven days a week,” he said. “We don’t take any days off. When you get into some neighborhoods, you can go several hours without eating lunch. You get caught up in getting the job done.”

Work for the crew ranges from setting utility poles, putting in new transformers and restringing power lines. Often the men go back to their hotel and meet in the corridors the families whose everyday lives have been disrupted by Mother Nature.

“You can see families there, people with small children, holed up in a hotel,” he said. “People appreciate us and that you makes you feel good. They will see the trucks from Ohio and they will blow their horn and wave at you. Or they will come up and thank you.”

On Wednesday the weather was vacation perfect, a temperate 85 degrees with the sun shining. However the terrain is in stark contrast.

“A lot of people even though we get their electric back on, their house is damaged extensively,” Osborne said. “There are large trees in the yards and that takes a lot of money to get those removed. There will be months, even a year, to get back to normal. Your heart goes out to them. All and all it is just typical hurricane damage.”

Osborne has worked for AEP for the past 31 years and handling cleanup work at natural disasters is not new.

“For a major event, we pack for two to three weeks,” he said. “If we get done in eight to 10 days here, they might move us to another locale. People are really appreciative. It is a satisfying thing to be a lineman.”