Outages bring out the best in us
Around our house, it’s normally noisy as the Christmas season approaches. This year was different. Thanks to a major ice storm that moved through the state in early December, my family joined thousands of others who were without power.
Instead of the cheerful strains of “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bell Rock,” silence reigned. Outside, however, was a different story. Nearly every neighborhood resounded with the sounds of chain saws and diesel engines from repair trucks.
Ice storms tend to blanket entire systems with outages. But they also seem to bring out the best in people.
It never ceases to amaze me how much rural electric members — even those suffering through an extended outage — appreciate their electric cooperative. It comes through in the outpouring of support that every rural electric system experiences when the chips are down.
I thought it might be good to relate some of these stories in this month’s column.
Outside Jefferson City, Solid Rock Baptist Church, served by Three Rivers Electric Cooperative, opened its doors to anyone without power. The church served as a warm place to stay until everyone in the area had power.
Also at Three Rivers, member Gene Kiral Sr. saw how trees had fallen across the sign at the co-op’s Brazito office. Knowing the co-op could not spare employees to cut the limbs, he did it for them and hauled away the debris for good measure.
In northwest Missouri, an Atchison-Holt member offered to buy breakfast for an entire line crew because he was so appreciative of the crew’s work. That says a lot, because these guys can eat!
As quick as the lights came back on, the thank-you notes began pouring in. A Boone Electric member, Tyler Therrien, wrote, “Much is made of thanking our troops and as a former Marine, I know how important that is. But it occurred to me as I spent 20 minutes chiseling ice off my old pickup that what you do, out in a freezing rain storm, is no party either!”
Co-ops post these notes where the crews gather, and it’s a real morale builder for a weary lineman.
A group of Grundy Electric linemen, along with crews from Farmers’ Electric who were helping out, received a standing ovation when they stopped at a restaurant in Princeton for lunch.
A Platte Clay Electric member, Maxine Thompson, called to tell everyone “an old lady is thinking and praying for you and is very appreciative of everything the co-op did during this outage and job well done.”
The Kearney Trinity Lutheran Church baked cookies for the Platte-Clay Electric crews and all their helpers from other systems, including ones in Nebraska. They put a sticker on the cookie plate wrappers, quoting Luke 1:37: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”
At New-Mac Electric, members used their trucks and tractors to pull the co-op’s trucks out of the mud. At United Electric, members brought in pots of hot soup to feed the employees who were working around the clock.
These stories and hundreds of similar ones restore our faith in humanity and keep our crews ready for the next storm, which we hope is a long time coming.
Those of us who were without power now have a greater appreciation for electricity. We witnessed the hard work of the employees, not just from the local system but also from those who volunteered to lend a hand. We especially appreciate the crews from other states who helped out.
The next time you see linemen out working, I hope you will take the time to give them a big thank you. And thanks for your kindness, patience and understanding.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.