Cooperative News

PEC crews assist in East Texas storm recovery

Lineworkers reflect on challenges, similarities to local emergencies

When lineworkers at the Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative in East Texas (URECC) were met with extreme storm-related damages and over 90% of members were without power, PEC crews didn’t hesitate to help out.

A total of 33 PEC lineworkers headed to East Texas on June 16, where they spent seven days helping URECC repair or replace broken poles, reconstruct miles of downed lines, and assist with other damaged infrastructure to restore power to more than 47,000 of Upshur’s 53,000 members.

James Valdez, regional operations manager in Oak Hill, was assigned as the point of contact for this mission and helped PEC crews gear up for the assistance. His challenge, as with any storm, was that it was hard to know what materials and equipment would be needed.

The picture became clear when local law enforcement shared that the impacted area sustained three storms with 80-mph winds, which brought down 120 pine trees of over 100 feet and took out multiple power lines. Roads were covered, and the right of ways were filled with trees, poles, lines, and debris.

On top of this, our Hill Country lineworkers had to work in unfamiliar East Texas terrain to repair the damage.

“It was kind of intimidating at first because we were chest-deep in weeds, and we had to go through briar to get to the poles that were just shattered into pieces,” Travis Sasko, Oak Hill regional operations supervisor, said.

It took extra communication to learn URECC’s operations and get a feel for the unique elements, but Valdez said once the crews got into a groove, the work went smoothly.

The task was never easy, and there were sleepless nights due to the lack of A/C in some of the lodging. However, it all paid off in making a difference in the lives of the people in the community.

“It feels good to help out,” Sasko said. “It’s hard to see so many without power, so we’re happy to be there and help get them back online.”

As crews returned home and the work was completed, URECC CEO Robert Walker voiced his appreciation for PEC’s willingness to help out in a time of need.

“I cannot speak highly enough of your men, their leadership, tenor, and work ethic,” Walker said. “They have demonstrated the highest professionalism and dedication this past week in grueling heat and humidity without complaint and undaunted. We certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the Pedernales Electric Cooperative for helping us during a great need.”

Comments from Upshur crews were also positive, as lineworkers praised our teams for their resiliency and positive attitudes. Walker was also impressed with how PEC leadership came to check up on our lineworkers.

“It all speaks volumes about you, your board, and your leadership team,” Walker said. “I know that is where great organizations start.”