Thanks to crews from BrightRidge and the Elizabethton Electric System, the lights were back on for customers of the small Georgia utility a few days later. Ten crew members (five from each utility) and eight line trucks from Northeast Tennessee spent nine days in the area restoring power.
The crews arrived to the devastated site on Oct. 11. When they left, BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said electricity to 98 percent of Cario’s customer base was was back on.
“Cario has three linemen,” Dykes told the BrightRidge board of directors on Tuesday. “This was a huge help for them.”
Rodney Metcalf, BrightRidge’s chief of operations, said a recent update to the utility’s insurance coverage allowed BrightRidge to “cross state lines” to provide mutual aid.
“We were able to team up with Elizabethton,” he said.
Metcalf said crews dispatched to the site often slept in their trucks at night after spending a day repairing damaged lines. He said it was “very demanding work.”
Countless trees and power poles were down, which left 4,000 Cario customers without electricity. Few hotels and even fewer restaurants were with power after the hurricane passed.
“The Red Cross had some cots, but with 300 men snoring in a tent, you are better off sleeping in a truck,” he said.
Crews had to use extreme caution as residential generators and downed lines made the work “very dangerous.” He said flooding had also created added problems for repair crews.
“We are dealing with rats and snakes going to the highest point,” Metcalf said.
B.J. King, chairwoman of the BrightRidge board, said the mutual aid work was a “proud moment” for the utility.