SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — After Hurricane Irma devastated Florida, crew members from the Ozarks traveled South to help in the relief efforts.
MoDOT sent 57 crew members from all across the state. Eight of them from the Southwest District.
12 linemen with Southwest Electric Coop also traveled to help restore power to thousands of co-op customers there.
Workers from both agencies volunteered to participate in the mutual aid. They have since returned home.
“There’s nothing like your bed at home,” said Jeff Robertson, maintenance supervisor with MoDOT Marshfield.
But Robertson says he and his crew are also happy they went.
“I’d say every one of them was tickled to death to have gone,” he said.
The hard work started even before arriving in Florida.
“When we hit the Florida state line, that’s when we hit the traffic,” said Robertson.
Tory Hurt, a lineman with SWEC says they found the same issue on the way down. A trip from Alabama that would normally last 6 to 7 hours, ended up being a 13-hour drive.
“They had roads closed because of high waters and debris on the road,” he said. “So, we had to take a few back roads to get around.”
MoDOT sent 30 trucks and 20 trailers with equipment to South Miami to help clear the roads.
“I was amazed by the size of some of the trees that were uprooted,” said Robertson.
In central Florida, the damage wasn’t as bad as Hurt had expected, but more than 100,000 people were without power.
“I think we worked, when we got there, 16 hour-days,” he said.
Tory Hurt was one of 12 linemen from SWEC.
“As far as the ground goes, it was all sand, so it was a little different than what we’re used to up here,” he said. “When we had to change a pole it was a little – I wouldn’t say easier because it liked to cave in on itself quite a bit, but just different.”
Both agencies say they were met with hospitality.
“We had people stopping and giving the crew water, shaved iced trucks pulling in, the food, Florida DOT. They took awesome care of us,” Robertson said.
And despite the heat and humidity, the Show Me State showed up for its neighbors trusting they’d do the same for Missouri
“Everybody had a really good attitude, everybody was really good to work with,” said Hurt.
“There was no quitting,” Robertson said. “I think it’s just bred in us. If somebody is in need if you could help them you help them.”
In total, Missouri sent 122 linemen from its Coop system to assist in both central Florida and Georgia. This was the largest mutual assistance effort in the history of the electric program.