Volunteers organize dinner for Boone County Electric linemen

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | 9:36 p.m. CST
Volunteers hosted a dinner to feed and thank linemen from varying electric cooperatives who worked long shifts to repair downed electric lines and restore power after Monday and Tuesday's snow.

COLUMBIA — Jack Crist has been a lineman for Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative for 16 years.

In those 16 years, he said he has never had days as bad as Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Yeah, back in 2011, we had a windstorm, but it wasn't as bad as this," he said.

On Wednesday, his shift started at 6 a.m, and he expected to be fixing lines until 10:30 p.m. as he worked his way through the snow.

Since this week's winter weather took out power to residents all over mid-Missouri, crews have been working almost nonstop to restore electricity to homes throughout the area.

Because of long shifts like Crist's, volunteers gathered Wednesday night at the Boone Electric Cooperative to help provide linemen and employees a warm dinner as they work through the night. 

Because of the week's wet snow, this is the most extensive damage to Boone Electric's system in 20 years, said Todd Culley, the cooperative's general manager.

As of 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, there were about 371 outage locations throughout Boone County, which left about 2,479 customers of the Boone County Electric Cooperative without power. More than 12,000 customers lacked power at the peak of the outages, according to a press release from the cooperative.

The dinner was organized Wednesday morning by Michele Spry, of Midway Electric. A friend suggested the idea to her on Facebook, and she called the cooperative to make sure it was OK. By 4 p.m., people were setting out plates of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. Volunteers will also provide lunch Thursday, and a dinner from Shakespeare's Pizza.

"It's the least we could do, 'cause they're out there working 18-hour shifts," Spry said.

Fixing the outages takes a long time because while the individual outages are not technically complicated or particularly difficult to solve, there are hundreds scattered all over Boone County, Crist said.

Normally, crews would be able drive to many of the outage locations, but snow has made that travel difficult or impossible, he said.

"It's just a constant walk up and down," Crist said. "For us it's kind of normal stuff; it's just time consuming is the main thing."

The linemen aren't the only ones working around the clock. 

Volunteers brought food to office workers in Boone Electric's "war room," the central command center of the cooperative, where six employees organized the response to outages. Culley walked past rows of offices with roll-out beds — including his own.

"This is kind of my home away from home," Culley said. "I keep a couple changes of clothes in the closet, that sort of thing."

Culley said that under this sort of weather, the cooperative will sometimes ask employees to spend the night rather than send them home, and that beds are placed throughout the basement so they have a place to sleep.

For a short time on Wednesday night, though, Boone Electric's linemen and employees had a chance to rest for dinner.

"We aren't trying to do this for recognition," Spry said, "This is solely for the guys."

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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