SALT LAKE CITY — Sixteen linemen and two managers from Rocky Mountain Power are scheduled to fly to New Jersey today to help crews with the massive task of restoring power on the East Coast, and they could be there for up to three weeks.
Power outages Wednesday totaled more than 6 million homes and businesses, down from a peak of 8.5 million. Power is out as far west as Wisconsin, and as far south as the Carolinas. Some cities in New Jersey and New York are crippled by the storm, and it could take weeks to return power to all who lost it.
"We all have a sense of pulling together in an extraordinary emergency," said Dave Eskelsen with Rocky Mountain Power.
Electricity is critical to clean up the mess and get back to normal life.
"Damage this big to an electric system takes a lot more people than any one company could muster," Eskelsen said. So crews from across the country are headed east.
"Most people are overjoyed to see help coming from out of the area and just can't believe some of the places we come from," worker Mark Kuhn said.
Crews typically get large numbers of customers back on line in the first 24 hours, he said. He said he's responded to power outages in Illinois, South Dakota and Iowa caused by ice storms that lasted for weeks. When he sees an outage of this magnitude, he immediately thinks of the obstacles.
"Will our guys be able to get around? Will we have mechanical breakdowns of our equipment? Where do you get gas?"
Once an area is safe, crews restore power to substations first. Then, they repair feeder lines that provide power to neighborhoods. After that, they take care of individual customers.
"You want to get the most bang for your buck and try to pick up as many people at once as you can," Kuhn said.