"There are many downed trees so our right-of-way crew goes ahead of our construction crew to clear paths for trucks so we can begin to rebuild or repair the lines," said Heith Barger, general foreman for AECI's construction department, who is directing the 34 Arkansas electric cooperative workers. "We are working on a power line that is miles and miles long. Much of the line is on the ground and many poles and cross arms are broken. It is a time consuming process, but we are making progress."
Barger said once repairs are made, service can be restored to thousands of consumers. He said the AECI crew has been able to restore electric service to thousands of residents during the past few days as sections of the line were repaired.
"The downed trees are a challenge, but we are also dealing with heavy traffic," he said. "The area is fairly well populated, plus people just want to see the damage. The traffic causes navigation and safety hazards, especially after dark."
Barger, who directed restoration efforts after Hurricane Katrina, said the outages and damages in the Suffern area are more scattered than the storm that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.
"As with any storm restoration process, we are constantly dealing with situations that aren't ideal," he said. "But we are here to help people and we will continue to work toward that goal."
The AECI crew members are working for Orange and Rockland Utilities based in Pearl River, N.Y. The utility is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides various services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to more than 500,000 members, or customers, in Arkansas and surrounding states.