What began as Hurricane Sandy affected at least 24 states from Florida to Maine with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and the second-costliest U.S. hurricane in history, surpassed only by Katrina.
By the time Sandy hit the New York area on Oct. 29, 2012, it was a powerful super storm that flooded beach towns, downtown Manhattan, tunnels and subway lines. Winds and water knocked down homes, trees and power lines, leaving more than an estimated 8.5 million East Coasters without electricity over a cold, dark and frightening Halloween week. More than 100 Americans died as a result of the storm, and President Obama later declared New York and New Jersey disaster areas.
During the long and hazardous restoration, utility workers have had to deal with the most dangerous conditions imaginable, often putting their lives at risk.
Nearly 4,000 Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) utility personnel and out-of-state linemen worked 16-hour days for more than two weeks to restore electricity to the majority of customers. Since the restoration began, PSE&G replaced approximately 2,500 poles, 1,000 transformers and cut down more than 40,000 trees to repair the extensive damage.
While addressing PSE&G personnel during the restoration Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and COO, said, “I know we are all growing weary, and we’re all feeling the growing frustrations of our customers. But I can’t say this more plainly. We must put safety above all else. There is no customer whose service is more important than your health and safety. We will meet this extraordinary challenge, but we will not compromise safety to do so.”
One life put at risk was a lineman from PSE&G’s Palisades Division in northern New Jersey. PSE&G is the state’s oldest and largest regulated gas and electric delivery utility, serving nearly three-quarters of the state’s population. At the peak of the storm damage, New Jersey utilities reported 2.7 million outages.
The worker was injured on Nov. 3, 2012, while restoring power to a line in Rutherford. The employee came in contact with an energized 13,000-volt line. Fellow employees immediately performed CPR before he was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
After the accident, LaRossa said, “Our thoughts are with our lineman and his family. I can’t say enough about the crew members who rushed to the aid of their colleague, stayed calm and provided life-saving assistance.”
LaRossa reported that the injured lineman is out of the hospital and continuing to recover at home. Safety discussions were held at all company locations to review the accident and reinforce all safety protocols.
A PSE&G statement reported that crews from other states that joined in the restoration effort passed a hat and collected several thousand dollars to help support the injured worker’s family.
If you are a contractor working on storm restoration, stay safe. Also remember that all water-damaged electrical equipment must be replaced.