Michigan Utilities Send Crews To Assist Amid Hurricane Irma

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Michigan utilities are sending hundreds of workers to Florida so they’re ready to assist with power restorations when Hurricane Irma hits the state.

DTE Energy is sending roughly 300 line workers plus 100 tree trimmers. They’re expected to reach northern Florida by Friday afternoon, where they’ll be on standby until needed.

Brian Calka, a DTE field operations team director, said about 40 percent of their staff is heading down south.

“That’s a good number of individuals heading down to help out,” he said, adding that those traveling have volunteered to do so. “They’ll get paid a decent amount of money because they’ll be working 16 hours a day for an extended period of time, assuming the weather hits. But really the motivation isn’t monetary, it’s really to go down there and help out in times of need.”

When crews arrive, Syd Canard, DTE general supervisor, said crews could remain out-of-state for a few weeks, possibly even up to a month.

“Most linemen are used to that during storms. We work 16 hours a day around here when we have storms. We get up early in the morning and we don’t get home until late. But that’s the sacrifice and that’s what we do during storm time.”

More than 200 Consumers Energy employees and contract personnel are headed from Michigan to Florida to assist local electric companies preparing for the hurricane. They’re also expected to arrive on Friday and could remain in Florida for up to two weeks.

Michigan utilities often get help from out-of-state crews during major outages. During a storm in July, for example, crews from four states assisted Consumers Energy in its restoration work.

“In the past, we were fortunate to be supported by out-of-state crews following major storms, and with fair weather here in Michigan, this is an opportunity for us to return the favor to our fellow line workers,” Guy Packard, Consumers Energy vice president of electric energy operations, said in a statement.

Hurricane Irma, currently a very strong Category 5 storm, with peak winds of more than 180 mph, is moving northwest through the Atlantic Ocean toward Florida. Current forecasts estimate the storm striking the southern portion of Florida Sunday morning, prompting the governor to declare an emergency and officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Forecasters said it could punish the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina.

“This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, alluding to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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