Utility, emergency crews to be lauded for storm response

The effects of Monday’s ice storm were bad, but they could have been worse. You have your local utility workers and others to thank for that.

An estimated 10,000 people were without power at the height of Monday’s storm, but only 400 didn’t have it as of Tuesday morning.

That’s quite the drop.

What does it take to reduce the number of households affected by a storm by 90 percent or so in such a short time span?

A lot of skill, dedication and perseverance.

Karl Benstrom, distribution superintendent of the Marquette Board of Light and Power, told The Mining Journal that crews were brought in from out of the area Monday night, and still were there the next morning.

The BLP was securing trees on lines, which was a dicey proposition since Benstrom said a wind could snap the trees.

Brett French, vice president of business development and communications with the Upper Peninsula Power Co., said UPPCO was working “systematically” to restore services.

Yep, utility crews definitely don’t have 9-to-5 jobs.

Not only do they have to work odd hours as the circumstances dictate, they have to climb poles and perform other tasks in bad weather, which in Monday’s case was the cause of the problems.

According to the BLP website, it has a line technician on call 24/7 throughout the year, with an additional line technician on call on the weekends. In the event of a storm, the BLP has mutual aid agreements with other utilities across Michigan and the United States.

UPPCO, too, has procedures in place when outages occur, making sure equipment is working and supplies are stocked in advance of the threat of severe weather.

The National Weather Service in Negaunee Township is to be commended as well for providing timely updates on the ice storm as well as forecasts. The NWS didn’t escape damage from Monday’s storm, either, posting on its Facebook page a photo of a large tree limb that fell in front of its building.

Law enforcement personnel had to respond to accidents and exercise caution while handling them, having to drive to and from the scene safely on roads that were as icy for them as other motorists.

Let’s not leave out the private sector, either. Last week’s polar vortex brought subzero temperatures, which for some people made starting a vehicle a challenge. For them, a towing service allowed them to continue their daily routines without as much trouble had no such service been available.

It’s hard to believe they weren’t needed over the last few days.

When events such as the ice storm happen, we should be grateful for the men and women who keep utilities running and keep people safe. Society would have a much harder time without them.

— Marquette Mining Journal