“I had frozen tears on my face:” State School shares story of restored power, comfort
When Winter Storm Goliath struck Lubbock just after Christmas in 2015, the Lubbock State Supported Living Center, known as the State School, had a crisis on its hands.
Their electrical system was originally wired in 1969 and was no match for the storm.
“The wind and snow were blowing so hard, it was able to get into crevices in the old equipment and basically fried the inside of the transformer,” says Betty Ann Fortenberry, the director of physical plant and maintenance for the State School.
The State School houses 182 full-time residents, with about 700 full-time employees to provide 24-hour care. Since resident heating is powered by electricity, the State School placed an emergency call to LP&L who came out with their crew in the midst of the storm, working around the clock to get the electricity restored.
“Day and night, LP&L had staff here who were trading out so they could get our power back up,” says Fortenberry. “I saw these men working in subzero degrees. At one point, I had frozen tears on my face. They saved our people.”
Eventually, the LP&L team got the State School’s electricity back up and running, but they knew it was only a temporary fix.
Complete system upgrades are no easy undertaking – they take months of planning, ordering material and boots-on-the ground work.
LP&L secured FEMA assistance to help with a portion of the project – switchgear replacements – which was completed in summer 2017. In January 2018, LP&L began installing underground wiring, pad mounted switch gear and pad mounted transformers. That portion of the project is scheduled to be complete the first week in May 2018.
With those changes, the State School will notice a significant difference in restoration times, says LP&L Senior Line Foreman Michael Coomer, who spearheaded the project.
“When they were down in the storm, they were down for more than 20 hours. With this new system, restoration time will be cut to a few hours for situations like this,” says Coomer.
LP&L is coordinating with the State School to work on a few buildings at a time, so the facility can keep operating safely while their teams get the job done.
“Everything LPL is doing for us will save us so much. We have medically fragile people who require 24-hour care on feeding and oxygen pumps. If electricity goes out we can’t take care of our folks. It will save us so much heartache,” says Fortenberry.