Robin Cadle is a customer greeter at the Walmart in Palatka, Fla. On Monday, he was happily greeting the Gulf Power lineworkers who showed up to restore power to his sister-in-law’s home.
The team replaced a pole and downed wire so that homes along Grandin Lake, located near the center of the state between Jacksonville and Gainesville, could receive power, which had been out since Sunday when Hurricane Irma struck.
“I’ve been watching them and I’m amazed at all the work they have to do,” Cadle said. “I know they put their lives on the line every day and I appreciate that.”
The 80-person storm team is assisting Florida Power & Light in the St. Augustine area. At height of the storm, FP&L had more than 4 million customers without power, but that number was down to less than 120,000 on Tuesday morning.
That Gulf Power storm team, along with the 25-person team working in Sarasota, are receiving kudos from customers as they get their power back on.
On Sunday, a St. Augustine woman and her daughter delivered 30 pizzas to the crews to show their thanks.
On Monday, two children in Interlachen, near Palatka, delivered hand-drawn photos to Ed Morrell, one of the team leaders, and Sam Smith, an apprentice lineworker from Crestview.
The note read, “We appreciate y’all for all you have done for us, not just in our area, but all over our state and even those who helped the people in Texas. May God bless you and keep you safe.”
When the 25-person team was working in Dade City last week, assisting Tampa Electric, customers came out to watch and say thanks.
One customer, Dave, who chose to only give his first name, watched as crews replaced a transformer in front of his home so he could receive power.
He said when Hurricane Ivan struck the Pensacola area in 2004, his truck driving job involved delivering transformers from Chicago to Pensacola for three weeks.
“I remember the devastation all over Pensacola,” he said. “We didn’t have as much damage, but I know the work your guys do to get the power restored and I appreciate it.”
On Friday, as the team worked in the Dade City area, people driving by were waving and honking their horns in thanks.
One customer stopped by to thank the crews. She is a school teacher and said she was going to have her students write thank-you notes. She has four horses that she left in the pasture during the hurricane. They braided her cell phone number onto a card in their horses’ manes in case they got lost.
“We got power back pretty quickly, just four days,” she said. “We’re glad Gulf Power came down to help.”
Cadle had more concerns than just his sister-in-law’s power. His sister lives in Bradenton and her power is still out. He has two brothers who live in Live Oak. One has power; the other doesn’t.
“I wish Gulf Power crews could go everywhere,” he said.
Gulf Power has a strong history of restoring power — both at home and away assisting other utilities. Crews have deployed more than 36 times since 2008 to help other energy companies restore power to their customers.
Recently, in 2016, Gulf Power responded to the City of Tallahassee and Georgia Power following Hurricane Hermine’s landfall. A month later, Gulf Power storm teams responded rapidly to calls for aid from Florida Public Utilities and Georgia Power, assisting with recovery operations following Hurricane Matthew. For these efforts, Gulf Power was awarded the Edison Electric Institute Assistance Award or its extraordinary work assisting in power restoration efforts in a neighboring or nearby electric company.