By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Eastern New Mexico power company workers have made their way to southern Texas on a quest to restore power to those who have fallen victim to Hurricane Rita.
Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative lineman Cade Standifer said about 60,000 meters were knocked out in Livingston, Texas and the customers are without power. Livingston is 70 miles north of Houston.
Roosevelt County Electric Coop. Line Superintendent Apolonio Santillanes said he received a notice from the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association on Friday seeking volunteers to help repair damage in southern Texas. Santillanes said he asked workers at the Roosevelt County Electric Coop. for volunteers and all 16 which were asked, volunteered.
“I was really impressed with the response, for them to give up going to watch their children at Little League games, good meals at home and live in tents to help somebody else,” Santillanes said.
Santillanes said five crew members were chosen because of the familiarity they had working with each other. Many electric workers left Tuesday morning on their way to the Houston area to help other Texas electric companies and they are scheduled to be there for approximately two weeks.
Standifer is a lineman and also crew chief of the five members. He said they will help with power lines damaged by blown over trees.
“I wanted to help people out,” Standifer said. “I feel that if people in our part of the country needed help people from other areas would come to Portales to help us.”
Clayton Barber and Sammy Villanueva are two other lineman who will be in south Texas for two weeks along with Manuel Mendoza, equipment operator and Mark McSperitt, a groundman.
Once they are in Livingston, Santillanes said they will work with Sam Houston Electric Coop. workers to restore power.
“They (five members) will work the same way as if we had a tornado in Portales,” Santillanes said about the environment. “Someone (from Sam Houston Electric Coop.) will have to lead them. They will have to take extra precautions and fight the elements.”
Barber has a wife, Cheryl, and a 3-year old daughter in Portales and he said Cheryl was understanding of Barber having to be gone for two weeks.
“She was glad I was going (to Livingston) to help,” Barber said. “There was no question to me whether I’d volunteer or not. It was only a question of where and when and I’d be there.”
Standifer, who has worked for Roosevelt County Electric for nine years, said he helped restore power in Pampa during the ice storms of 1997, but said that Livingston was the farthest he had to travel and for the longest duration of time.
Santillanes said he knows of electric coop administrators from four different coops in eastern New Mexico who have sent at least five workers to south Texas. Santillanes said Standifer, Barber, Villanueva, Mendoza and McSperitt took three pick-ups and traveled along with Farmers Electric Cooperative Inc. members from Clovis on Tuesday morning.
Besides the cooperative companies, the Powerline Inc. members (an electric contractor) from Clovis also traveled to south Texas to help out.
Randy Mitchell of Powerline Inc. said nine members of the 29-member staff traveled to south Texas. They will meet with electric companies in the area to see where they are needed.
Mitchell said the Powerline Inc. workers will help repair any damaged powerlines and took 11 vehicles to help with the equipment, but that none of it would be possible without the people they left behind in eastern New Mexico.
“I want to give a special thanks to the families and wives for their consideration and support,” Mitchell said. “Our wives made a lot of sacrifices, also, by having to raise the families by themselves while we are gone.”
Santillanes said members from the Lea County Electric of Lovington and Central Valley Electric of Artesia traveled on Monday night to south Texas.