Lining Up to Answer Brownfield’s Call for Help
On June 18, Brownfield was hit by a microburst, otherwise known as straight-line winds, with recorded speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. The winds flattened multiple power lines, and even a few homes. With only one six-person crew to repair the lines for a population of nearly 10,000, Brownfield Utilities looked to its neighbors to help get the power back on for its residents.
Having just overcome one of the largest storms in Lubbock’s recent history, LP&L understood what it would take to repair the mass damages in a timely manner.
“This has been one of the most severe storm seasons we’ve had in years,” said LP&L Senior Power Line Foreman Brady Anderson. “June has especially been brutal this year – we lost 119 poles in the June 4 storm alone.”
Within minutes of the request, 10 LP&L linemen stepped up and offered to help their fellow linemen in Brownfield.
“Our guys were volunteering left and right. Some even volunteered while risking the chance of missing Father’s Day,” continued Anderson. “At the end of the day, we had more volunteers than we could take. This is what we do. It’s what defines us as linemen.”
Restoring power safely and efficiently after a severe storm is an already complex process.
“We start by assessing the damage, then build a job plan with a safety analysis of next steps. For Brownfield’s downed double circuit poles, we had to de-energize and ground the primary line for safety,” said LP&L Lead Journeyman Lineman Rick Mitchell II.
“After that, we had to clear all of the broken poles and downed lines first in order to safely install the new 45-foot poles. This involved drilling holes, setting poles, hanging cross arms, laying up the wire one structure at a time, clipping the wire in and then re-energizing the circuit,” continued Mitchell.
To add to an already-difficult job, the linemen had to work in 90-degree weather and exercise extra safety protocols amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Crews remained within their groups and maintained a six-foot distance whenever possible.
“To become a lineman, you have to go through a very intense and thorough apprenticeship program with thousands of hours of school and testing, and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training,” said LP&L Power Line Foreman Overhead Eric Garza. “LP&L’s electrical system is also one of the most complex systems to work on as a lineman, which means we can get to a system like Brownfield’s and get to work rebuilding power lines without hesitation.”
After three days, 300 hours of work and more than 240 miles traveled, LP&L’s crew had rebuilt nine double circuit poles and supported a 20-pole job, restoring full power to Brownfield.
“The people of Brownfield were really gracious to our team, bringing us breakfast two mornings in a row and dropping off coolers with cokes and Gatorades,” continued Garza. “We’re really appreciative.”
Coy Collins, Power Line Foreman
Eric Garza, Power Line Foreman Overhead
Gary Holder, Apprentice
Israel Garcia, Journeyman Lineman
Kevin Aufill, Journeyman Lineman
Matthew Burns, Lead Journeyman Lineman
Mike Hernandez, Power Line Foreman
Paden Kinney, Journeyman Lineman
Rick Mitchell II, Journeyman Lineman
Why did you decide to become a lineman?
When I was young, I lived out in the country. One day the electricity went out and a lineman came out to fix it. I remember just sitting there and watching him, thinking it would be a cool job. – Eddie Hancock (Supervisor and Underground)
When I graduated from high school, I needed a job. As soon as I started as a lineman, I fell in love with it. I’ve stuck with it ever since. – Rick Mitchell II
It was completely by accident. I wasn’t as familiar with the job but once I started working, I fell in love with it. I also love helping others. – Kody Morris (Transmission and Distribution Manager)
What is the linemen community like across the neighboring cities?
All of us realize our lives are in each other’s hands. We watch each other’s backs and all strive to work towards the same goal. We are our brother’s keeper. – Coy Collins
We have mutual respect and comradery with one another. It’s a brotherhood. This rapport is only built by helping one another in times of need. – Matthew Burns
Linemen are a breed of their own and it’s a brotherhood. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, we all have a mutual respect for each other since we know the exact trials and tribulations we’ve all been through. – Mike Hernandez
What is the one thing you wish customers knew about you and/or your job as a lineman?
I’d like to quote a post off of a lineman page: “These men are trying to harness an invisible enemy that moves the speed of light, hits harder than a locomotive and burns hotter than the surface of the sun. They put their lives on the line every time they lace up their boots and respond to a call. Let’s not forget these men rush into a situation that could be their last. Next time you see that bucket truck blocking the road or you feel inconvenienced about being out of power, just remember that’s somebody’s son, brother, dad or husband performing a selfless act to help the community.” – Brady Anderson (Senior Power Line Foreman)
Our job is very dangerous. During storms, we’re working in the worst possible conditions with multiple hazards involved. It is not always easy and restoring power takes time. I hope customers can be mindful and patient with us. – Israel Garcia
We always try our best to safely and efficiently restore power to customers. We sacrifice everything to go out and work in extreme conditions from hail, tornadoes, lightening, floods, dust storms, wind storms to snow storms. – Kevin Aufill