8 months ago

Linemen power Alabama’s storm recovery efforts – ‘Some heroes wear climbing hooks’

Even before the Easter Sunday storms rolled through causing widespread damage across Alabama, the state’s linemen knew they would likely be in for a tough week.

“Being a lineman for 25 years, I’ll tell you, we watch the weather religiously,” remarked Casey Shelton.

Shelton, business manager for IBEW System Council U-19, started with Alabama Power at age 18 and has been in his current role for almost 10 years. In between, Shelton spent two and a half decades on the line crews.

He told Yellowhammer News earlier this week that it is all part of being a lineman.

“Everyone was getting prepared for this round of storms knowing it was going to be a bad one,” said Shelton. “Our people gear up any time they start talking about significant weather events, they start getting ready. Our linemen and our crew people are on call 24-7, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That’s just part of their duties, part of their jobs.”

As tough as storm recovery is on linemen, Shelton says it is what they usually find out on site that drives them to push themselves for hours and sometimes days on end.

“Our linemen really go to the heart of the destruction especially with tornadoes,” he explained. “They see the worst of the worst. They’re out there and exposed to the people who have damage, people who have lost their homes. That’s where they go first in a big storm like this. For them, they’re always saddened by this. They’re affected by the side of it that you probably don’t see or realize that much.”

Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh has been out on many storm recovery sites during her time in office. This week, she observed two separate crews working to restore power to Montgomery residents.

She shares Shelton’s belief that the linemen working for Alabama Power and other utilities across the state have a real sense of the importance of their work.

“They’re amazing,” she told Yellowhammer News. “When you talk to them you can tell they know how big of a responsibility they have riding on their shoulders. They know people want to be able to heal, to feed their families and to open their businesses. They know people depend on what they do and how fast they do it.”

Alabama Power line crews were tested to their limits this week as they returned 100% of customers who could take power to service by late Wednesday night.

Asked how many linemen Alabama Power deployed to handle recovery efforts this week, Shelton replied, “Pretty much every single one of them we had.”

He estimates that amounted to about 1,200 linemen and 300 transmission linemen.

And every single one of them was needed for what the company considers the 12th worst storm in its history. More than 300,000 customers were affected by the Easter storms, and the damage included 500 broke poles and 250 transformers.

A storm of this magnitude puts a strain on linemen felt not only by them but their families, as well.

Cavanaugh sought to draw attention to the sacrifices made by them after having seen it this week.

“Whenever we have a damaging storm, they’re among the first responders who help our communities return to normal as soon as possible,” she stated. “When I went out to visit with line crews a few days ago, I talked to guys who haven’t been home for days and had worked for a day straight without any rest.”

There was something else which stood out to her while watching crews repairing lines.

“One of the things you notice when they are doing storm recovery is how well-trained they are and how serious they take their jobs,” Cavanaugh remarked.

That training is essential, and it all starts in one place, according to Shelton.

“Number one for us is safety,” he emphasized.

Shelton outlined that the first thing crews do when arriving at a scene is to hold a safety briefing so that they can assess every aspect of the situation.

“Safety is so important in our job because it’s one of the most dangerous trades out there,” he explained. “We have safety procedures we have to go through first before we can actually go to work. Safety is a priority for leadership at Alabama Power, and safety is our first priority, too.”

No matter how much technology improves, the work for linemen can still be grueling.

Shelton pointed out some that some of the work in Jefferson County this week required a technique called “floating a pole in.”

“We had several places where the poles were inaccessible,” he said. “I talked to one crew on Monday which had to manually carry a pole in, manually dig the hole, manually set the pole and put the wire back up on it with no equipment. It’s physical labor, and it’s time-consuming. When you’ve got a group of ten men trying to set a pole, you can understand the time it takes to restore power in some places.”

And, yet, he says linemen continue to recognize there are a lot of other people in Alabama working around the clock.

“My guys appreciate so much the people who are keeping our state going, other first responders, grocers and healthcare workers,” said Shelton. “Our guys really recognize their importance, and they really want to pass along that gratitude to those people.”

Cavanaugh hopes in the coming weeks that people remember linemen and their families and the sacrifices they make.

“Our linemen in Alabama are some of the most courageous and hard-working people in the country,” she concluded. “They’re the best. They are out there in really tough conditions trying to help us. Some heroes wear climbing hooks.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

5 hours ago

Ivey lights official state Christmas tree – ‘Merry Christmas to each of you’

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday took part in the traditional annual lighting of the official State of Alabama Christmas Tree located on the steps of the capitol.

“Let this be a year you do a little bit more, and give a little bit more,” said Governor Ivey to those assembled.

“Merry Christmas to each of you and to all families across Alabama,” she added.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed introduced Ivey at the ceremony and praised her “steady leadership” during a tumultuous year. Ivey later thanked him for his “dedicated leadership” of Alabama’s capital city.

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Around 200 citizens braved temperatures in the mid-40s to take in the lighting ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks were required for attendance at the ceremony.

“I’m incredibly grateful we’re able to safely keep this Christmas tradition alive,” Ivey said of the circumstances.

Alabama’s 2020 tree was donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr. of Lowndes County. The Eastern Red Cedar is 35 feet tall and required a crew from the Alabama Department of Transportation for its installation.

Major General David J. Francis, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, reminded the crowd in attendance that the Christmas standard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was written from the perspective of a soldier forced to be away from home during World War II.

“This is a great reminder to remember all our service members, including the members of the greatest generation, the deployed members who will not be with their loved ones this holiday season, and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Francis added.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Jesus Christ,” mentioned the governor, who makes her Christian faith a mainstay of her public persona.

“Through the birth of a baby boy over two thousand years ago, we can find salvation, peace, and purpose in our lives,” Ivey continued.

“For many of us, including myself, that hope and faith has been what has guided us through these difficult challenges of 2020,” she told the public.

“May God continue to bless our state,” the governor concluded.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

8 hours ago

Palmer: Pelosi, Democrats prioritize pot legalization over COVID-19 relief

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised eyebrows this week by calling the House of Representatives into session and pushing through votes on legislation that would legalize marijuana and ban private ownership of exotic animals — known as the “Tiger King” bill.

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) released a scathing statement on Friday decrying Pelosi’s prioritization of these bills over much-needed COVID-19 relief for the American people.

“Speaker Pelosi and her clueless Democrat colleagues have proven over and over again that their top priorities do not include the hardworking Americans who need help to get through this pandemic,” Palmer said.

“This week, their prioritization of pot legalization while people are struggling is a stunning display of partisan politics and shows just how out of touch Democrats are with the American people,” he continued. “The timing of this bill not only reflects a disregard for the businesses that need further relief funding, but also for the rampant mental health and drug overdose issues exacerbated by the pandemic.”

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Entitled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), the marijuana legalization passed the House on Friday by a vote of 228-164. The only Alabama representative to support the measure was Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07), a Democrat.

“Federal surveys show that since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., depression and anxiety have been on the rise, with a concerning 75% of young adults now struggling with at least one mental health or drug problem,” Palmer explained. “The Center for Disease Control has also predicted that the U.S. could see 75,500 drug overdose deaths in 2020 if recent trends hold. Pelosi’s pot bill is even more unconscionable with these concerning facts in mind, especially as it ignores common sense safety measures around marijuana use, and also funnels taxpayer dollars to the marijuana industry and convicted drug dealers. In short, the bill would grant easier access to a gateway drug for already vulnerable and struggling people.”

The Central Alabama congressman concluded, “Furthermore, at a time when we should be helping people with employment opportunities, this bill would move us in the wrong direction. Companies with drug-free work environments, many of them also hazardous work environments, should not and will not employ people who might come to work drug-impaired, endangering themselves and others. I hope we don’t waste more opportunities next week for needed relief.”

Palmer, as the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, is the fifth-highest ranking member of the House GOP.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

WWII vet finishes fight with COVID-19, turns 104 the next day

A World War II veteran in Alabama was released from the hospital this week after a battle with the coronavirus. He turned 104 years old on his first day back home.

Major Wooten, the veteran in question, has become something of a minor celebrity in recent years for his joyful approach to life at his advanced age.

Wooten turned heads in recent years during his trip to Normandy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Similar lines cheered his return to the airport and his exit from the hospital earlier this week.

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An ardent Alabama fan, Wooten again made headlines earlier this year when Nick Saban gave him a call after a health scare in the spring.

RELATED: Nick Saban surprises 103-year-old WWII veteran with Facetime call

Wooten is from Cullman and was cared for at Madison Hospital during his fight with COVID-19.

His exit from the hospital has garnered attention across the nation, with the Associated Press publishing a widely circulated story and ABC’s World News Tonight featuring Wooten in a segment.

Watch employees of Madison Hospital sing Happy Birthday to Major Wooten:

 

Major Wooten turns 104!

Mr. Major Lee Wooten won his battle with COVID-19 in time to be home to celebrate his 104th birthday. Mr. Wooten, who is a veteran and warmly known as “Pop Pop,” is described by his granddaughter as “their family’s treasure.” Please join us in wishing Mr. Wooten a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Madison Hospital on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

9 hours ago

Alabama receives over $50M from Dept. of Interior for energy produced in state

The State of Alabama is receiving $50.29 million from the federal government as a disbursement for energy that was produced in a federally owned area of the state.

Alabama’s funds come as part of a $1.81 billion payout to 34 states announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt on Friday.

The revenue sent to states Friday “was collected from oil, gas and mineral production on federal lands within the states’ borders and from offshore oil and gas tracts in federal waters adjacent to their shores,” according to a release from the department.

Virtually all of Alabama’s portion of the money was generated by offshore drilling, per the data available on an Interior Department web portal.

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Alabama’s payment was ninth highest in the nation. New Mexico took the top spot with $706.96 million followed by Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Mississippi.

American Indian Tribes received $1 billion as part of the process; 100% of the revenue from the energy generated on their lands.

“[T]hese disbursements also go right back to the states and Tribes where the energy was produced, providing critical funding for schools, public services, conservation improvements and infrastructure projects that create good-paying American jobs,” said Bernhardt on Friday.

The over $50 million announced as on its way to Alabama on Friday is the state’s total for fiscal year 2020 that ended September 30. It is the largest amount the state has received under the disbursement policy in the last decade.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

11 hours ago

Aderholt tests positive for COVID-19, is asymptomatic

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Friday announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but is displaying no symptoms.

Aderholt originally went into quarantine on November 15 after learning he had been in close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Right after completing his 10-day quarantine period, Aderholt’s wife, Caroline, tested positive and he once again went into quarantine.

Under new CDC guidelines that allow for a seven-day quarantine if followed by a negative test result, Aderholt on Thursday received a COVID-19 test to ascertain if he could exit quarantine and resume voting on the House floor.

“I fully expected to receive a negative test, because I have felt, and continue to feel fine, and have no symptoms. Unfortunately, I received word Friday morning that my test came back positive. After speaking with the Attending Physician for Congress, I will continue to isolate,” he advised in a statement.

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Aderholt also said that his wife has recovered from the virus after experiencing mild symptoms.

During his original quarantine, Aderholt had isolated himself away from his wife and the rest of his family.

The dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation, Aderholt is a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, including serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn