Electric workers to help hurricane victims in Texas

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

Giving up the comforts of home for two weeks, 16 power company workers from eastern New Mexico are on their way to restore power in homes of hurricane victims in southern Texas.

Apolonio Santillanes, line superintendent for Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative, said he received a notice Friday from the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association seeking volunteers to help repair electric line damage in southern Texas.

Santillanes said he asked workers at the electric cooperative for volunteers, and all 16 who were asked had 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.

They are scheduled to be there for approximately two weeks.

Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative lineman Cade Standifer said about 60,000 meters were knocked out in Livingston, Texas, 70 miles north of Houston.

Standifer is crew chief of the five members. He said they will help with power lines damaged by felled 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.”

Linemen Clayton Barber and Sammy Villanueva will be in south Texas for two weeks along with equipment operator Manuel Mendoza and groundman Mark McSperitt.

Once they are in Livingston, Santillanes said, they will work with Sam Houston Electric Cooperative workers to restore power.

“They (five members) will work the same way as if we had a tornado in Portales,” Santillanes said. “Someone (from Sam Houston Electric) 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. He said Cheryl was understanding about his going 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 period of time.

Santillanes said he knows of electric co-op administrators from four different co-ops in eastern New Mexico, which 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 co-op members from Clovis Tuesday morning.

In addition to the co-op companies, the Powerline Inc. members (an electric contractor) from Clovis also traveled to south Texas to help out.

Randy Mitchell of Powerline said nine 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 workers will help repair 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 Monday night to south Texas.