1 year 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

Jim Zeigler considering ‘exploratory’ effort for Alabama governor in 2022

After much speculation, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her intentions to seek another term as governor in 2022 earlier this month.

Despite what were perceived to be controversial positions on pushing the Rebuild Alabama Act that raised the gasoline tax, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in determining what could remain open and closed and a failed Mobile Bay/I-10 toll bridge proposal, Ivey is still riding high in polling with strong approve-disapprove numbers.

However, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, whose term as auditor will be over after 2022 and is ineligible to run again because of term limits, told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday that he was considering a run for governor in 2022.

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“I believe it’s very important for Alabama taxpayers, for the state government, for our future to have a viable opponent who has been raising issues and trying to hold the Ivey administration accountable,” he said. “And that is why I am considering myself setting up an exploratory campaign to test the waters for a gubernatorial run. Who else is there — who else took the lead in blocking the toll bridge over Mobile Bay? Who else took the lead in blocking Amendment One that would have taken away your right to vote for school board members and have them all appointed by the Governor? Who else took the lead in blocking this prison rental plan that would have had us paying over $3 billion over 30 years and then owning zero equity in the prisons, a terrible business plan?”

“I don’t know,” Zeigler continued. “If not me, then who?”

If Zeigler runs against Ivey in 2022, it would not be the first time the two of their names appeared on a ballot in a race against one another. In Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary, Zeigler took on Ivey in a race for state delegate for the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Ivey prevailed with 7,182 votes to Zeigler’s 1,729 votes — a margin of 80.6% to 19.4%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

9 hours ago

Alabama’s May unemployment rate drops to 3.4% — Post-pandemic rate at lows; Record high wages

Alabama’s post-COVID pandemic economic recovery seems to be humming along based on data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

According to a press release, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington revealed Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from April’s rate of 3.6%.

The 3.4% rate tops the May 2020 number of 7.9%.

“May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020,” the release said. “May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021.”

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“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Data showed that wage and salary employment grew last month by 4,700.

“Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,000), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,500), and the education and health services sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 123,000, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+37,100), the professional and business services sector (+23,000), and the manufacturing sector (+22,900), among others,” the release said.

Average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year, according to the Department of Labor.

“As we continue to see improvement in nearly all sectors of the economy, we’re also seeing record high wages in Alabama,” Washington added. “Once again, our average weekly wages are at new record high, representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase. Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases. The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

Broken down by county, Shelby County led the way with a rate of 1.8%, followed by Blount, Marshall, Franklin and DeKalb Counties.

Wilcox County topped the highest in the state with an unemployment rate of 8.8%.

When broken down by municipalities, Alabaster had the lowest rate at 1.7%. Selma had the state’s highest, coming in at 7.0%, followed by Prichard at 6.5% and Bessemer at 5.2%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

10 hours ago

Shelby warns Biden on defense cuts — ‘Military investments in China and Russia … outpace U.S. investment’

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) fired his own warning shots over what he views as an inadequate defense budget proposal from President Joe Biden.

During a full Senate Committee on Appropriations review of Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense budget request, Shelby expressed his concern that the administration’s defense spending plan placed the nation at a disadvantage compared to its adversaries.

“The National Defense Strategy provides a road map for what the Department of Defense needs – at a minimum – to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” explained Shelby. “Anything less jeopardizes readiness, the recapitalization of capital assets, and necessary investments in new and emerging technologies.”

Shelby, who currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful Senate committee, believes that not meeting current national defense demands sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world.

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“This year, the budget proposal signals to the world that this administration is not committed to investing in readiness, training, state of the art equipment, and technological overmatch,” Shelby stated. “With military investments in China and Russia continuing to outpace U.S. investments, I find it hard to believe that the requirements outlined by General Dunford just four years ago are no longer instructive.”

This critical assessment from Alabama’s senior senator comes less than a month after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Shelby addressed both officials in his remarks, stating, “The world is a complex and dangerous place and I know that you both understand the magnitude of the challenges we face from our near peer adversaries who seek to undermine the United States’ position as a world leader and dominant military power. China and Russia are formidable adversaries and China, as you have acknowledged Secretary Austin, is proving to be a true pacing threat. China seeks hegemony – militarily, technologically, economically, and geopolitically – and is making unprecedented investments to see that to fruition.”

“Meanwhile, Russia is nearing the end of a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30 percent in real dollars over the last 10 years,” he added.

Shelby concluded that he could not support an effective cut in defense spending in 2022.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

10 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl urges Biden to undergo tests for ‘mental impairment’

U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) joined 13 of his congressional colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to undergo an examination to determine his mental fitness to serve.

The group cited a string of embarrassing verbal gaffes by the president as the basis for their request.

In a letter sent to Biden on Thursday, the Republican members of Congress explained, “We write to you today to express concern with your current cognitive state. We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the precedent set by former President Donald Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, your mental decline and forgetfulness have become more apparent over the past 18 months. In March, you forgot the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Secretary, though you had said ‘Secretary Austin’ just a few minutes prior.”

In addition, the letter cites Biden’s telling of an Amtrak story with an inexplicable timeline, forgetting the first line of the Declaration of Independence and obvious disorientation during a visit to Texas as examples for why they believe Biden is in need of cognitive testing.

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The list of gaffes attributable to his mental acuity seems to be piling up for the 46th president.

During the G7 Summit in England recently, he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce the South African president.

RELATED: Biden lashes out at media member and Alabama native Kaitlan Collins over Putin — ‘You’re in the wrong business’

Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce has questioned whether Biden’s cognitive state is a national security liability.

Biden has received criticism in the early stages of his administration for calling on only a predetermined list of reporters during press conferences. The most recent instance of this occurred while Biden was in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Carl and the other letter signers pushed for transparency with any medical assessments being made, as well.

“We encourage you to follow the example set by President Trump by undergoing a cognitive test as soon as possible and immediately making the results available for the American people,” they concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

11 hours ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.

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“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.