Hurricane help

Nine electric workers from Delaware, including four from the city of Newark, headed to Florida on Tuesday to help a town threatened by Hurricane Dorian.

Four city of Newark employees are among a crew of electric linemen from Delaware heading to Florida to help a town that is threatened by Hurricane Dorian.

Timothy Lindell, Jacob McMaster, Gregory Shevchuck and William Shorter, joined by workers from Milford and New Castle, headed south early Tuesday morning.

“It’s important to help people when you can,” said Heather Contant, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC), which supplies electricity to Newark and other municipalities in Delaware. “We’re in sunshine, while they’re facing potential devastation. We would want help if we were in their situation.”

After devastating the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian has been downgraded to Category 2 and is slowly moving up the east coast. The latest forecast has it staying slightly off the coast, but the storm is still expected to bring hurricane-force winds and flooding to Florida.

In total, DEMEC coordinated sending nine linemen and six bucket trucks to Florida. They were expected to arrive at a staging area in Jacksonville late Tuesday night.

From there, they are expected to be deployed to New Smyrna Beach, a town about the same population as Newark that is located just south of Daytona Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Those plans could change, though, based on the track of the storm, Contant said.

Power companies often help each other out during hurricanes and other natural disasters, but this is the first time DEMEC has done so.

“This is our very first mutual aid effort. We’ve been preparing to do something like this for years,” Contant said. “Our members really stepped up.”

Expenses will be paid by the Florida power companies, which can receive reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fortunately, DEMEC has never needed to call on mutual aid to help here in Delaware, but the agency did come close in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy was heading toward the state. Ultimately, Delaware escaped the brunt of the damage, and Florida-based crews that were on their way here were diverted to New Jersey and New York, which were hit the hardest, Contant said.

Delmarva Power is also pitching in, sending 140 employees and contractors to Florida.

“Energy companies from across the country have supported our responses to major storms here, and we are glad to return the favor,” Gary Stockbridge, Delmarva Power region president, said in a prepared statement. “We are proud of our dedicated employees and contractors who are answering the call for help to support what is expected to be a monumental restoration effort.”

Kevin Liedel, a Newark spokesman, said the city’s electric department was pleased to assist and hopes to be able to continue to provide mutual aid in the future.

“They’re down there for any type of prevention and other help they can provide,” Liedel said.

While this is the first time Newark has sent an electric crew to help during a hurricane, the four linemen join a strong tradition of Newarkers pitching in when disaster strikes.

Last year, four members of Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company traveled to North Carolina to provide additional support for fire companies following Hurricane Florence. In 2016, Newark residents Michelle Varisco and Matt Sager organized a donation drive and personally delivered a trailer full of supplies to Zachary, La., which had been devastated by flooding.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, the city of Newark “adopted” the town of Pascagoula, Miss. Locals raised money for the residents there, and two-dozen Newarkers and University of Delaware students took a service trip to the city to help it rebuild.

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