Lance Moore has seen worse in his 26 years as a lineman for Warren Rural Electric Cooperative, but he doesn’t downplay the important role he and other linemen have played during the recent severe winter weather.
WRECC crews have worked in the Alvaton, Edmonson County and Grayson County areas to restore electric service to hundreds of customers in recent days, when the extreme cold meant restoring power could be a life-saving job.
“It’s a good feeling, and it kinda drives you and keeps you motivated when you know there’s elderly people and kids out there without power,” said Moore, an Alvaton resident who is now lead lineman for WRECC. “You want to do something for them. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Moore, 47, works out of WRECC’s office and warehouse on Commerce Street, where on Wednesday he was preparing his bucket truck to “work trouble” wherever he was needed.
WRECC’s crews in Bowling Green, Leitchfield, Morgantown and Franklin often “work trouble” locally, including restoring power to more than 3,000 customers in the Alvaton area and another 7,000 in Grayson County during the worst of the past week’s storms.
With that trouble often coming at odd hours, WRECC linemen are periodically on call and subject to respond to downed power lines, blown transformers and other emergencies.
“When you’re on standby duty, you’re subject to be called out 24 hours a day,” Moore said. “Everybody else is at home in a warm bed, but the lineman is out there somewhere getting the lights back on.”
The importance of that job has been highlighted recently as unusually frigid conditions left nearly 3 million Texans without power.
While he hasn’t dealt with a tragedy on that scale locally, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities lineman Chris Matlock said he and others in his line of work have had experience with widespread power outages that require a lot of manpower and a lot of patience.
“I’ve been to the Paducah ice storm of 2009, and we went to help with Hurricane Irma (in 2017),” said Matlock, who has been with BGMU for 13 years. “We try to get people’s power back on as quickly as we can but as safely as we can.
“Being patient with getting your power back on is tough, but there is a process. It’s not as easy as flipping a switch.”
Moore has seen his share of emergency power outages as well, including the 2001 tornado that tore through Leitchfield.
“We went to work on Sunday and didn’t come back until Wednesday,” Moore recalled. “You went to work and stayed at work until the lights were back on.”
Such marathon work sessions are a thing of the past at WRECC, which has instituted a policy requiring linemen to get an eight-hour break if they work 16 hours straight during such emergencies.
Responding to emergencies in other areas is still a big part of what linemen do. Moore himself has been to several, including a trip to Mississippi to restore power after Hurricane Katrina led to more than 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage in August 2005.
Just last week, three WRECC four-person crews were deployed to West Liberty in eastern Kentucky to help Licking Valley RECC restore power in areas hit hard by the winter storms.
“We always help one another,” Moore said. “It’s important to send aid to areas that have been hit. It means so much.”
Preparing for such deployments and constantly reinforcing the need for safety measures around high-voltage wires is a big part of what WRECC crews do, Moore said.
“Safety is very important in this line of work,” Moore said. “I’ve seen some bad incidents over the years but no fatalities.”
Constantly working on safety and other best practices has paid off for the WRECC linemen. Competing in the Kentucky Lineman’s Rodeo that showcases pole-climbing skills and other events, a WRECC crew won the 2009 state championship.
Those skills will be needed if more winter weather brings on power outages like last week’s.
“Ice and freezing rain are not our friends at all,” Moore said. “It can lead to tree limbs breaking and falling over power lines.”
Although BGMU takes steps to keep tree climbs trimmed away from power lines to avoid such problems, Matlock said he and his fellow linemen are ready for any events that leave customers without electricity.
“You really start taking pride in getting people’s power back on,” he said. “If bad weather comes, we’ll be ready for it.”