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Utility Crews Flock to Ark. To Help

December 29, 2000

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ There’s a high-wire act going on over Arkansas, cold and cranky after the second ice storm of the month plunged much of the state into darkness.

Utility crews from as far away as Delaware and Michigan are climbing poles, hacking at tree limbs and wrestling 13,800-volt power lines in freezing cold to reconnect thousands of people who have been suffering since a Christmas Day storm.

More than 300,000 homes and businesses lost power in Arkansas. The nearly 8,000 linemen on the job are not expected to finish hooking everybody back up until next weekend.

``There’s some parts you can’t get into,″ said Detroit Edison employee Bob Barrette. ``You have to wait for the sun to melt the ice.″

Entergy Arkansas summoned linemen from 23 states to help it repair lines. Caravans of utility trucks reading Detroit Edison or HP&L (for Houston Power and Light) have become a common sight, along with tree-trimming trucks, chain saws and wood chippers.

Many of the utility workers were in Arkansas two weeks ago, helping restore power after a Dec. 12-13 ice storm that left some people without power for 10 days. After going home for two days over Christmas, many of the workers were called back.

With the city beginning to return to life below them, Paul Kosmicki and Cecil Thomas of Detroit Edison worked to replace a burned-out 13,800-volt power line that left a senior citizens’ apartment complex dark.

Thomas used a hammer to break the ice on the wire and cut the damaged line, then attached a new line and used a pole to connect the switches and turn the power back on.

Entergy Arkansas lineman Lonnie Cook said the customers around Little Rock seem more easygoing with the second round of outages. As drivers shouted, ``Thanks!″ and honked, Cook said, ``Last time, people were really upset. Now they’re happy to see us.″

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