You'd just be driving down the street and just see people coming out of the house, grateful that you're even driving down their street. As soon as their lights came on, you'd be surprised at how happy people are when they have electricity. —Lineman Brian Janssen
SOUTH SALT LAKE — One year ago this week, Hurricane Sandy came ashore, causing major devastation in several East Coast states and leaving millions in the dark, some for nearly two weeks.
A group of linemen from Rocky Mountain Power worked around the clock in New Jersey, restoring power after the storm pounded the area.
These unsung crews are the focus of a new documentary called “Storm Soldiers.” It chronicles the work of power line crews all over the country. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at what such crews do, many times under terrible conditions.
The movie also includes images from a year ago in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Crews from Rocky Mountain Power were one of many out-of-state crews sent back to the disaster zone to lend a hand.
“As soon as we got on the ground (in New Jersey) and got our gear, as soon as daybreak came, it looked like a disaster zone,” said Todd Lindley, senior safety administrator for Rocky Mountain Power. “It was literally spaghetti with power lines all over.”
Sandy came ashore on Oct. 29, 2012, sending floodwaters pouring across the densely populated barrier islands of Long Island and the Jersey shore, according to the Associated Press. In New York City, the storm surge hit nearly 14 feet, swamping the city's subway and commuter-rail tunnels and knocking out power to the southern third of Manhattan.
The storm was blamed for at least 182 deaths in the U.S. — including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey — and property damage estimated at $65 billion.
More than 8 million customers lost power, some for nearly two weeks.
Lindley, who has worked for Rocky Mountain Power for 28 years, said restoring power in areas ravaged by Sandy was one of the toughest challenges in his career.
“As far as working with the power company, the logistics and helping out, it was a very deep challenge, quite an adventure,” Lindley said.
Lineman Brian Janssen said he and his fellow crew members did everything they could to restore power.
“We were clearing trees to make access to get the power lines back up,” Janssen said. “We were in bucket trucks when we had them. When we first got there, we didn’t have any equipment that we needed.”
Lindley and his crews were there for about two weeks. During that time, he estimates they averaged two to four hours of sleep per night.
“There were a few nights when the guys went around the clock,” Lindley said.
Many people who were without power for several days were grateful to see power crews in their neighborhood, Janssen said.
"Coming to work here is just an everyday routine," he said, "but back there, people have been out of power for weeks and they rely on you, and (they) come out with gratitude.”
“We had other folks who were like, ‘Hey, you’re here! Good to see you!’ And others that we approached and they were joyful and tearful that they actually saw someone because they had not seen or heard from anyone in several days,” Lindley said.
Those featured in the documentary tell similar stories of the dangers and the satisfaction they get from their work, never looking for praise, just wanting to get the job done quickly and safely.
"You'd just be driving down the street and just see people coming out of the house, grateful that you're even driving down their street," Janssen said. "As soon as their lights came on, you'd be surprised at how happy people are when they have electricity."
Lindley said he received calls and emails of thanks from people who were helped even after he returned to Utah.
Rocky Mountain Power has invited all linemen who work along the Wasatch Front and their families to a screening of the documentary Friday.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc