East Central Electric Cooperative Linemen continue restoring power in hurricane-racked Louisiana
Over three weeks since Hurricane Ida devasted large swaths of Louisiana, crews from Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are still in the field assisting with storm restoration efforts.
Several East Central Electric Linemen took up the call. The initial crew, made up of linemen Tyler London, Gary Baker, Stacy Bourne, Lael LeBlanc, Trevor Cheatwood and Jody Gilroy, left Oklahoma on August 31. On September 13, a rotation crew including co-op employees Mike Muller, Rodney Nixon, Pat Livesay, Jason Childress, Terry Casey, Quinn Rogers, and Jerome Roberts took their place.
These men joined forces with lineworkers from across the state and nation to aid sister cooperative DEMCO, based in the East Baton Rouge parish. DEMCO is the largest electric cooperative in Louisiana serving more than 113,000 members; its service area is comprised of 8,887 miles of line.
For fourteen days straight, the first team left their lodgings at 6 a.m. and worked tirelessly until they returned around 10 p.m.
“The reason we do this dangerous, outside work is, at the end of the day, we get to see our progress,” Baker said.
“It gets discouraging after three or four days of no power,” Gilroy said. “Then, suddenly, it’s like Christmas morning. It’s the most satisfaction you’ll ever get as a lineman.”
Baker serves as East Central’s safety coordinator and Gilroy is a lineman-in-charge over construction. Both men have worked for the cooperative for over 20 years and were also among the teams that responded to Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav.
“It takes a village to put a village back together,” Baker said. “When other co-ops come together and help out, it’s a big stress reliever.”
Linemen teams from Louisiana and other parts of the country have also responded to help East Central Electric after ice storms and other major weather events.
The conditions in Louisiana were less than ideal, with 100-foot pines laying over the lines and swampy, overgrown landscapes to navigate.
“I was tired. We worked a lot of long hours,” Gilroy said.
“We got eaten up with bugs from our ankles up,” Baker added.
But despite the stagnant muggy air and heat indexes in the 110s, the men said there was a lot to appreciate. The food was great, the hospitality was excellent, and despite the hardships, the team stayed positive and determined.
East Central General Manager Tim Smith said, “We are proud to have employees who embody our Cooperative Principles, like Cooperation Among Cooperatives and Concern for Community.”
East Central Electric Cooperative is encouraging anyone who would like to show support for the linemen who participated in this effort to mail a letter to the cooperative marked ATTN: MR/PR or submit a message online at: https://bit.ly/3n8MrQW.
East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative is a member owned and controlled not-for-profit rural electric cooperative. Our service area covers 3,000 square miles and includes portions of Creek, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties.