Two blue Sioux Center hardhats will be among those worn by linemen in Florida working to restore power due to damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
Lorn Wielenga and Troy Kunnari, Sioux Center linemen, are leaving for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, on Friday, Sept. 30 to provide mutual aid for the electric utility there. Currently nearly all of that utility’s 29,000 customers are without power.
“We are going to take our Sioux Center digger derrick truck there to help with storm damage. We will be helping mostly with downed poles and wire caused by the winds and fallen trees,” Wielenga said. “There may also be work needed on utility-related equipment damaged by flooding.”
Sioux Center Municipal Utilities has a mutual aid agreement with other public power utilities across the nation, Utilities Manager Murray Hulstein explained.
“We like to help if we are able. We know in an emergency we’d seek others’ help, and we want to have the same response. It’s good to be part of this network of municipal utilities,” Hulstein said. “And if we can help, it’s just the right thing to do.”
It will be a 24-hour trip for Wielenga and Kunnari, traveling about 1,500 miles to New Smyrna Beach.
“We’re looking forward to helping out another municipal utility and the experience of helping there after a storm of this magnitude,” Wielenga said. “Pray for the people there as they work through this disaster, and pray for people helping out.”
This will be Wielenga’s first hurricane aid trip. Kunnari was part Sioux Center’s team helping in Florida in 2017. He said restoring large outages can be dangerous for a utility’s crew, with long hours, making it difficult to stay mentally sharp, along with the stress of public frustration.
“Being able to provide another piece of equipment and a couple knowledgeable guys helps eliminate man hours, keeping people sharper,” he said. “It's always fun to see people's power get back on.”
Kunnari and Wielenga thanked Sioux Center for sending them to be part of the relief effort.
“Having the ability to help is more than just us being willing to go,” Kunnari said. “It takes a town that has a strong electric system and capable guys to run it, along with a supportive wife and family who make it possible to go.”