The Farmington Electric department is sending out crews to help the disaster areas in southeastern Missouri.
Friday afternoon Jeff Lawson and Bruce Bellvin headed south and worked through the weekend assisting communities with large power generators. Two other electric linemen made the trip Monday and will be back later in the week. The city electric department is sending workers to the community of Malden in groups of two as long as needed.
Crews working in the Bootheel region say they may not have power back for all customers for up to 45 days. They are working on setting poles up and reconnecting downed lines.
Much of the region gets its electricity from a company in Arkansas. The generators being used in the interim until new feeder lines can be connected are enough to run electricity through an entire small community with minimal usage.
“When we get a request to help out in other areas, we help where we can as long as we (can also) fill the needs of our area. We have a mutual agreement with Missouri Public Utility to help out with a disaster or something bigger than one department can handle,” said Greg Beavers, city administrator of Farmington.
Crews from across Missouri are helping out with workers from Nixa, Marshall and Kirkwood among them. Also, three crews from Minnesota arrived Sunday to help where needed.
Jeff Lawson, manager of the Farmington Electric Department, said, “One crew came through Sikeston (headed) to Malden where over 100 electric poles were down. When we came through Poplar Bluff over 100 poles had fallen over. It was almost like a domino effect.”
The lines had about two to five inches of ice sitting on them in places when additional linemen arrived Friday afternoon. Lawson said about eight men from the city’s electric department could travel to help the disaster area before the emergency is over.
For now residents in the affected communities are using high school gyms for heating shelters. Cots are set up for people to sleep and the cafeteria is open with people cooking hot meals.
Farmington Fire Department Chief Todd Mecey has been in contact with some of the disaster areas and a crew will respond if more assistance is needed. As of now, Mecey said, the initial emergency response seems to be subsiding. The department will head south if requested.
In December 2006 during Farmington’s devastating ice storm the city was without electric power for several hours until feeder lines could be restored by Ameren UE. Portions of the city were without power for up to several days due to damage to lines and poles. Outlying areas saw power outages ranging more than a week. At that time other electric departments from across the Midwest volunteered trucks and linemen to help as needed.
Now Farmington is working to return the favor.