RPU linemen return from Florida

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(ABC 6 News) – Dealing with hurricane damage isn’t something Minnesotans experience regularly.

But when Hurricane Ian knocked out thousands of people’s power,

Rochester Public Utilities answered the call for help, sending four linemen to Barto, Florida to help get the power back on.

Chad Peterson was among the four linemen chosen to go. Marking his first time working out of state. He said that the majority of the damage he dealt with was fallen oak trees.

“There was one that uprooted, that the root system was probably 30 ft. tall,” Peterson said. “They fell on lines, broke poles and everything like that.”

Around 19 thousand people live in Barto. It’s estimated that at least 98% of the population lost power after Hurricane Ian hit.

But for Peterson, it wasn’t business as usual.

“How they build stuff (in Florida) it’s different than how we build things here in Minnesota,” Peterson said. “So to adapt and to overcome that adversity was another challenge when we got there.”

But even before crews got the power back on, the community was showing their appreciation for the aid.

“Within the first couple of hours we were there, on our first job, we had three different people come to bring us pizzas, brownies, and water,” Peterson said.

RPU Communication Coordinator, Tony Benson helped organize the trip to help Barto. He says that those chosen were mostly based on seniority. But noted that sending linemen to work out of state during disasters isn’t a new practice.

It’s something every state does to help each other during a time of need.

“The path could certainly go both ways,” Benson said. “We certainly could reach out to Florida, and other state and other municipal utility companies if we’re in need of restoration efforts as well.”

Crews from Austin Public Utilities along with local volunteers from the Red Cross and Salvation Army also went down to Florida to assist with recovery efforts.