Eau Claire, Wis. (WEAU) -- It's been more than three weeks since Sandy made landfall on the east coast, but 70,000 people are still without power. Now the focus for energy crews is getting natural gas back on. Another Xcel Energy crew departed for New York earlier today to help with just that.
The crew is made up of natural gas employees. Sandy's storm surge and strong winds forced them to shut down the natural gas system in the area. This crew will be joining other teams in New York to get the natural gas back up and running.
Xcel energy received the mutual aid request from the American Gas Association to help out in the West Hempstead area of New York.
Xcel Energy’s Liz Wolf Green explains, "We often respond to requests for electric power restoration through mutual aid agreements, but this is the first time for a natural gas service restoration."
Eighteen employees from Minnesota joined up with a crew of seven from here in Wisconsin. They met in Eau Claire this afternoon to make the three day trek out east.
"They’ll be performing work on the natural gas service. So replacing meter sets and getting that service working and then going around to homes and relighting appliances" says Green.
"We’ll work 16 hours a day. Get 8 hours rest then go at it for 2 weeks and see what happens,” says gas foreman Kurt Kielpikowski. He has never been out of state for work but he's looking forward to the trip.
"It's a time to give back, time to help. A lot of people have helped me in my personal life. Now it's my turn to give back. My mother passed away a few years ago and her name was sandy, so I’m going to help out with Hurricane Sandy."
Kielpikowski had to say goodbye to his family. He's scheduled to be gone for two weeks.
"They’re leaving their families, missing the holidays, and the deer hunting season. But you know we're really proud that we can assist all these people that have gone through so much following these storms," says Green.
On October 31st a crew of electrical employees from Xcel Energy headed to West Virginia then Long Island. Xcel energy got word today that those crews will be heading home onTuesday. Their trip was extended thanks to the nor'easter that followed sandy a weak later along with some tough working conditions.
NEWS RELEASE FROM XCEL ENERGY:
EAU CLAIRE – In response to a request for additional assistance, Xcel Energy is deploying crews from Wisconsin and other parts of its multi-state service territory to help restore natural gas service in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
Seven Xcel Energy natural gas employees from Wisconsin volunteered to deploy Monday from Eau Claire to help restore natural gas service to systems damaged by the hurricane and subsequent storms. The employees will be joined with 18 Xcel Energy employees from Minnesota.
Xcel Energy received a request from the American Gas Association to assist in New York. The Xcel Energy crews will travel to West Hempstead, N. Y., where they will be performing service work on gas meters and relighting residents’ appliances as service is restored. It is anticipated that the deployment will last for two weeks.
Previously, Xcel Energy sent 230 employees and contractors from its four operating companies – including 46 employees and 30 contractors from Wisconsin and Minnesota – to help restore electricity in Sandy’s aftermath. The crews left their home bases on Oct. 31 to help restore service to customers in parts of West Virginia. By Election Day, all the crews had moved on to Long Island, New York, where they continue to work.
Utilities maintain mutual aid agreements and routinely assist each other when storms cause massive destruction resulting in widespread, lengthy service outages. The utility requesting aid reimburses the utility whose crews are sent to help. Xcel Energy sends crews after assessing its own situation and ensuring it has adequate resources to respond to routine and emergency issues in its service territories.