Former Quay resident helps in New York in Sandy’s wake

A former Quay County resident home to visit family over the holiday weekend recalled his time in New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

"The damage was widespread," said Chris Arnett, journeyman lineman for American Electric Power, Abeline, Texas.

Arnett said he was part of the 30 members of the Abilene branch who volunteered to go to New York and help restore power. He said the crew drove four days covering over 2,100 miles to reach their destination.

Arnett said he and the rest of the crew was stationed in a yard with 1,000 line workers from across the country. He said some were from as far away as California and Quebec, Canada.

Arnett said the damage stretched from Connecticut to Virginia. He the crews were working 18 hour days and his first moments on site were exciting.

"I had a guy come up to me screaming," Arnett said. "He was talking about all that he had been through and at first I thought he was mad at me. Though after talking to him and a friend I realized he was actually happy that I was there."

Arnett said their crew worked in Yonkers, Rye, Bronx and Scarsdale. He said the people in those neighborhoods were very kind, receptive and overall happy the crews were there.

Arnett said the crews were working when the secondary snowstorm hit the area. He said it snowed from 9 a.m., to 3 a.m., the next morning.

"We're used to working in adverse conditions, it's what a lineman does," Arnett said.

Arnett said the snowstorm was different than the ones he'd experienced in Quay County and Texas. He said it was a wet storm system with large snowflakes, which slowed them getting to the job sites the following day.

Arnett said there had been some apprehension about going to New York.

He said they had heard horror stories about how the people of New York treated out-of-staters.

"Not the case at all," Arnett said. "They were so friendly and before we left we were told dozens of time how much they love Texans."

Arnett said during the morning residents would bring out doughnuts for them and pizza during the afternoon. He said the hospitality and gratitude of the people of New York was overwhelming.

Arnett said while the crews were there for work, they did manage to get out and see Times Square and ride the Metro train. He said a fellow crewmember narrowly avoided being arrested for a federal offense while on the train.

"We all didn't make it into the train before the doors closed," Arnett said. "A local said no problem just hit that button and the doors will open."

Arnett said the conductor came out and informed us that it was a federal offense to push the button. He said the conductor was forgiving and saw they were in their uniforms and were from out of state not aware of the infraction.

Arnett said after a week of restoring power the crew from Abilene returned to Texas, but because of the experience he would definitely make another trip back.

Local power company Xcel Energy also sent two 30-man crews to Virginia to aid in restoration of power in Plainview, N.Y., said Wes Reeves, Xcel spokesman.

Reeves said originally the first crew reported to Virginia, and then were redirected to aid the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). He said the first group drove and were later flown back, while the second group flew into New York and later drove the Xcel Energy vehicles and equipment back home.

Reeves said when the second crew departed; the LIPA reported 98 percent of customers who are able to be restored now have power. He said more than 51,000 customers in the area remained without power, but a large number of those will need to have their property repaired and inspected before LIPA can restore service.

Reeves said there was a three-man crew from Clovis / Tucumcari, which went, though he did not have the names of those crewmen. He said there were multiple teams from the Texas Panhandle, Southern Texas and Eastern New Mexico who helped in the restoration efforts.

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