Local electric company works to keep lights on for those affected by Hurricane Florence

JACKSON, Tenn. — Hurricane Florence is quickly approaching the Atlantic Coast and is expected to hit North Carolina as a category 3 by Friday. But crews at Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation say residents there will not be left in the dark.

“You don’t know how bad it is until it’s over,” said Ben Cupples, lead lineman at Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. “It could be half their system of 75,000 people I believe, may be out, or it could be the whole system.”

A group of 10 linemen and truck operators from across West Tennessee left Jackson Wednesday, on their way to help local electric companies in the eye of the storm.

“Most of the time, we’re not going to get a hurricane this far inland,” Cupples said. “But if we have a tornado or ice storm, then we can reach out to other co-ops for help, just like they are from us.”

They say they expect the damage to be widespread and plan to show up prepared for anything.

“Broken poles, trees down, I mean, you name it, it’s going to happen,” Cupples said.

The crew will take two bucket trucks. These trucks are used to elevate linemen and can go up to 65 feet in the air.

“This truck right here is our ‘Digger Derrick,’ and it pretty well drills the holes and sets the poles,” said Drew Yancey, lineman at Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. “And up here in the front, there’s your auger that does all the digging, and then you got your pole claws that catch the pole and help set it in the ground.”

They are also taking the attitude that you can only succeed when you work together.

“If the trucks can’t get there, then our men are trained to climb,” Cupples said. “So whatever it takes, we’re going to try to get the lights on.”

Representatives say 80 to 100 other electric companies from across the Volunteer State plan on heading to North Carolina to help.

Jackson Energy Authority says they will also be sending crews out as well.

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