Columbia Water and Light sends crews to Florida for Hurricane Irma

Columbia Water and Light sends crews...

Ten Columbia Water and Light crew members arrived in Orlando Friday ahead of the expected power outage from Hurricane Irma.

"We'll be helping with setting new poles, running new lines and installing new transformers," said Ryan Williams, assistant director of Columbia utilities. "We're pretty well-equipped with whatever problems they may have."

Columbia utility workers are joining 26 other crew members from across the state including Hannibal, Independence, Macon, Nixa, Poplar Bluff and Trenton, in Florida. Five lineworkers from Conway, Arkansas are also assisting.

The response was coordinated Wednesday through the Missouri Public Utility Alliance after it was contacted by the Florida Municipal Electric Association.

Missouri's mutual aid network allows city electric workers to help during widespread outages in other communities.

"We typically like to respond when we're asked because one of these days our turn will come and we'll hope that people will come and help us," Williams said.

Columbia Water and Light traveled to Florida last October to help restore power after Hurricane Matthew caused more than 1 million people to lose power. The eight-member team spent two weeks in Florida working 17-hour days.

Through the mutual aid program, Columbia will pay the linemen for their work and will then be reimbursed by the city utilities receiving their assistance.

Williams said Columbia called for mutual aid after a strong thunderstorm in the summer of 2014 knocked out power for thousands of people for several days.

"What comes around goes around, so we certainly want to make sure we're a good neighbor to everybody."

Boone Electric Cooperative said it was on standby Friday to respond to the southeast part of the U.S. if crews were needed.

A BEC spokesperson said right now the co-op plans on sending a four-man crew and the earliest they could leave would be Monday morning.

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