BERLIN - With her sister having left Florida as Hurricane Irma approached, Eversource‚Äôs Farrah Duffany is doing the opposite.
Duffany will be sharing on the company‚Äôs social media channels the work of about 30 line workers and support personnel from Eversource, who will be helping with restoration after the storm.
The crew loaded into five response trucks (two per vehicle), a mobile command center with communications technology and pickup trucks, Saturday outside the Eversource headquarters at 107 Seldon St., Berlin, to begin a 20-hour-plus drive to Florida.
‚ÄúWe want to help people and turn the lights back on,‚ÄĚ said lineman Daniel Rodriguez, who‚Äôs been with Eversource for 13 years. Rodriguez is one of the workers from all over the state who volunteered and was next on the list to respond to disaster restoration efforts.
The crew will make the trip, over 1,200 miles to the center of the Sunshine State, with Eversource workers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the other two states the company serves, putting the company‚Äôs convoy at about 100 employees.
The help stems from the industry‚Äôs Mutual Aid Network, which provides energy companies a network of companies to work together and help restore power following devastating storms and major events.
They don‚Äôt know exactly where they are going, as they are awaiting instruction from Florida Power & Light, the primary electric utility in Florida, for where to provide help. But they planned to drive about halfway to Virginia on Saturday, and then proceed further south on Sunday to receive further instructions. They plan to be down there for about two weeks, Rodriguez said.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôll wait until after the storm hits, and see where the most damages and most needs for these guys is,‚ÄĚ said Tricia Taskey Modifica, an Eversouce spokeswoman, said. ‚ÄúThe idea is to get as far south as we can without going into the storm, kind of hover on the outskirts and wait for a call of, ‚ÄėGo here, we need you here.‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs the farthest Rodriguez said he has traveled for disaster relief, adding he‚Äôs gone to Maine for an ice storm, helped with Hurricane Sandy and Irene restoration, and worked in the aftermath of a Connecticut October snowstorm in 2011.
It‚Äôs also a way to return the favor, as FP&L sent crews up north to help with the Hurricane Sandy restoration.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôll help with everything. Downed poles, wires, basically anything that needs to be done to put the lights back on,‚ÄĚ said Rodriguez. Crews are estimated to be working 16 hour days in Florida. The Mobile Command center, with radio communications technology, will serve as a base for the company to receive instruction from FP&L and then relay it to their workers, explained Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross.
As of 8:45 a.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said, the eye of Hurricane Irma is expected to hit southwest Florida and Tampa sometime today, but the entire state will feel the storm‚Äôs effects.
Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said Saturday that while Miami won‚Äôt get the core of Irma, it will still get life-threatening hurricane conditions.
The Category 4 storm pounded Cuba early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. It was expected to strengthen before hitting Florida.
According to The Associated Press, as of 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said 25,000 people in his state had already lost electricity as Irma‚Äôs outer bands began hitting the southern part of the state.
Forecasters also predict storm surges of up to 15 feet in southwestern Florida and rainfall up to 25 inches in the Keys.
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, Florida emergency management officials say at least 51,000 residents have hunkered down in approximately 300 shelters ahead of Hurricane Irma.
As of 11:50 a.m., the threat of Irma has prompted Florida state and local officials to ask 6.3 million residents to flee ahead of the storm. Florida is the nation‚Äôs third largest state with nearly 21 million residents.
Another 540,000 have been asked to evacuate in the eastern part of Georgia. In South Carolina, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for eight barrier islands. That includes Hilton Head Island, the most populous of the islands with about 40,000 residents.
Officials in the Florida Keys are evacuating some 460 inmates and 125 corrections officers from a jail on Stock Island to a jail in Palm Beach County.
The storm is expected to continue west through Florida to Georgia and Tennessee, according to The Associated Press, and avoid the Northeast.
However, if the storm does change paths, Taskey Modifica said, enough Eversource employees remain in the state to address any power outages that may occur.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited to work with them,‚ÄĚ said Duffany. ‚ÄúThese guys are leaving their families, to go help other families.‚ÄĚ
Eversource can be followed on Facebook at facebook.com/EversourceCT, Twitter @EversourceCT and Instagram @eversourceenergy.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.