11 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

2 hours ago

Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator taking applications for 2021 class

Startups from around the world are encouraged to apply for the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator 2021 class.

In its second year, the innovative program, located in Birmingham, seeks early-stage startups focused on emerging energy technologies. Areas of interest include smart cities, electric grid resiliency and sustainability, industrial electrification, connectivity and electric transportation.

The class will run for 13 weeks and include 10 companies. Through their participation in Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, startups will receive seed investment, business coaching and mentorship through Techstars’ worldwide network of business leaders.

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At the end of the 90 days, the program will culminate in Demo Day, a public pitch event on Dec. 9.

“We had a fantastic first year, made successful through the hard work and creativity of our inaugural class, even during a pandemic,” said Nate Schmidt, Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator’s managing director. “If you have an energy tech startup, you simply don’t want to miss out on the amazing opportunities and relationships this accelerator will provide your business.”

Techstars Alabama is supported by Alabama Power, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the Alabama Department of CommerceAltecPowerSouth and the University of Alabama. They play a key role in the accelerator process, with the common goal of growing the number of startup companies based in Alabama and making the area a hub of innovation activity.

The application deadline is May 12. For more information, visit the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator program page at Techstars.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

VIDEO: Gov. Ivey extends mask mandate, lottery could be an option as gambling bill languishes, Merrill backs off ‘no excuse’ absentee balloting and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Did Governor Kay Ivey make the right decision when she extended the mask mandate?

— Is the Alabama Legislature going to look to move forward with the lottery if they can’t get a more comprehensive gambling bill?

— Why did Secretary of State John Merrill support and then retract his support for “no excuse” absentee voting?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by Matt Murphy of Talk 99.5 in Birmingham to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” at Alabama Democratic Party Chairman and State Representative Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) for not following through on his plan to make the party more relevant in Alabama.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

6 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Stopping H.R. 1, amnesty keys to winning in 2022 midterms — ‘Then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden’

FLORENCE — With the third month of the 117th Congress now underway, House Democrats have pushed forward in their efforts to pass H.R. 1, which would impose so-called reforms to the country’s voting system.

Also among the priorities for Democrats, who control the White House, House and Senate, are immigration measures that could include amnesty for illegal aliens.

During an appearance at the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) panned those efforts and said he hoped to stymie the progress of House Democrats on those two fronts.

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Brooks told those in attendance that if Republicans could prove successful in those efforts, it would set the GOP up for wins in the 2022 midterm elections and hamstring President Joe Biden’s push to promote a left-of-center agenda.

“We’ve got to stop H.R. 1, and we’ve got to stop the amnesty and citizenship that Joe Biden has promised,” he said. “If we do those two things, then we’re going to take back the House in 2022. I hope we will take back the Senate in 2022. And then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden over the next two years if we control the House and Senate and set the stage as well for us taking back the White House in 2024 with whoever our nominee may be.”

@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.

8 hours ago

2021 Birmingham Heart Walk goes virtual

COVID-19 has forced many nonprofits to shift gears in their fundraising efforts and the American Heart Association (AHA) is no exception. The AHA’s 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk has been reimagined as a digital experience this year to maintain necessary safety protocols due to the ongoing pandemic.

Through the event design, AHA is striving to get more people moving in Birmingham while continuing to raise life-saving funds and keep participants safe in the process. The Birmingham Heart Walk is Saturday, June 12, from 9-11 a.m. and participants can walk from anywhere.

Leading up to the event, participants are encouraged to track their activity through the “Move More Challenge” using the free Heart Walk activity tracker app that can be downloaded from Apple or Google Play. Once registered, users have 30 days to log minutes, and any activity counts. Top movers and fundraisers will be recognized on Heart Walk day.

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“The American Heart Association holds a special place in my heart,” said Southern Company Vice President of Technology David Coxwho will chair the walk for the second time. “They have done so much for my family and for my daughter, Emily, who was born with multiple congenital heart defects. I’m pleased to partner with this outstanding organization in their efforts help our community connect and stay active as we adapt to this virtual world.”

More than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, and the risks have only been compacted by the pandemic. Among COVID-19 hospitalizations, 40% are heart or stroke patients, so this year, donations from the Heart Walk will help fast-track COVID-19 research and train front-line workers in addition to the many other research projects and resources funded by the AHA.

Fundraising and activities for the Heart Walk are beginning to ramp up as the warmer months approach.

“Now is the time to sign up, lace up and start fundraising for the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk,” said Hannah Carroll, Heart Challenge director of the Birmingham AHA. “Signing up now ensures you won’t miss any of the fun this year, like Rally Days and our new activity tracker.”

On Feb. 18, Cox hosted a virtual kickoff for business leaders in the Birmingham area who will be fielding teams at this year’s Heart Walk. He encouraged counterparts to begin their fundraising efforts by saying, “We’re here for a reason – to fight for a world of longer, healthier lives.”

To view Emily’s story, click here. To learn more about the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk or to create a team, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Schoolyard Roots growing stronger, smarter kids in Alabama

When kids participate in the life of a garden, they see the complete cycle of growing food, cooking and preparing it to eat. School gardens are exciting places for kids to learn basic academic subjects, too.

The Tuscaloosa community came together more than 10 years ago to develop a garden-based learning program called the Druid City Garden project, now called Schoolyard Roots.

Schoolyard Roots employs a full-time teaching staff that provides garden lessons for students, as well as professional development training for teachers. The school gardens provide an outdoor experience rare to many students. They are more likely to make healthy choices and try new foods. Students gain a sense of responsibility, to collaborate and work together as a team.

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“When we see a child’s health and education improve, we know that we’re not only investing in that child’s life today – we’re helping them build a better future,” said Nicole Gelb Dugat, interim executive director. “Schoolyard Roots builds community through food. By increasing access to fresh, locally grown produce, we empower our community to make healthy and sustainable food choices.”

In March 2020, the impact of COVID-19 significantly affected the teaching community. Almost immediately, the Schoolyard Roots team began distributing produce from its gardens directly to local families. By the end of last year, the program had distributed more than 750 pounds of fresh garden vegetables to the community.

“We stewarded our gardens as fresh-air sanctuaries, where children and adults could relax, refocus and reconnect,” said Dugat. “Through it all, we shared vegetables and flowers. We cultivated moments of peace and learned together. We could not have done any of it without our incredible community of supporters.”

They found hope and inspiration in the small miracle of seeds planted by the students. Gardens bring joy, peace and courage in times of struggle. And gardens remind us to have hope for new growth and what is to come.

Schoolyard Roots partners with Tuscaloosa-area elementary schools to bring learning to life through teaching gardens. The nonprofit works in 11 elementary schools across Tuscaloosa County.

Its mission is to build healthy communities through food with the Gardens 2 Schools program.

Gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children’s physical wellbeing, which can aid their academic and social success, too. The garden is woven through many aspects of a school’s curriculum and adapted for different grade levels.

“The Gardens 2 Schools program cultivates curiosity,” Dugat said. “The program teaches the students how to work together (and) learn self-reliability and compassion.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)