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MED crews aid Sandy relief efforts

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MASSENA - For the second year in a row, crews from the Massena Electric Department were dispatched to Long Island to help restore power following a major storm.

Last year, the men helped restore power following Hurricane Irene. This year it was Superstorm Sandy.

Dave J. Simpson made both trips, last year to Rockville Center to assist their electric department and this year to New Hyde Park and Garden City to bring help power back to those communities, both served by LIPA (Long Island Power Authority).

Comparing what he saw last year to this year, he said things this year were definitely worse.

“There were a lot more taller trees and older maples,” he said, adding that he didn’t even see the storm’s most serious damage.

“I heard that the damage was worse along the cost. We didn’t get to go there, but I saw some equipment that was down there. The waterline was right up around the windows.”

Mr. Simpson served as chief for a crew that also included Dennis V. Block, Tom D. Love and Lance Coggeshall.

Ralph A. Euto led a crew to Rockville Center that also included Justin Hicks and Dick Sheridan.

He said the scene he saw was similar to what Mr. Simpson described.

“Everything was trashed. There were a lot of huge downed trees,” he said. “Trees that were 130 to 150 years old were coming down, and they took down poles and everything else around them.”

Everything else, he said, included vehicles, as well as homes.

“Cars were crushed and some homes too,” he said. “It looked like spaghetti with wires down all over place.”

When asked how things were different upon when they left versus when they first arrived in their respective communities about a week earlier, both men said they were pleased to restore power to the communities they were serving.

“By the time you go, usually everyone is back on,” Mr. Simpson said. “But sometimes there is still some tidying up to do.”

Mr. Euto said it was nice to see the work they did appreciated.

“They were standing in the streets and cheering,” he said, adding the work they were doing was not easy.

“Because of a no digging order all of the poles had to be dug by hand,” he said, adding the challenges they faced weren’t just related to work.

“Finding a room and keeping a room in Long Island was nearly impossible,” he said. “You have to remember everyone in the world wanted those rooms. It was almost everyday that we came back and had to fight to keep our room.”

Mr. Euto continued, “Even getting out laundry done was a problem, because everyone, if they belonged there or not, was there doing their laundry.”

Even navigating the roads was tough, as their trucks weren’t even allowed on some roads.

“You would get into a lane of traffic and think you were in the lane you had to be in, but then find out you were in a line for gas,” Mr. Block said.

“The lines were blocks long,” Mr. Euto said, adding he understands the frustrations people on the island were experiencing, but said he thinks everyone was doing the best job they could to get power restored.

“People didn’t realize the magnitude of the problems they were up against,” he said. “I think everyone was trying their darndest.”

MED Assistant Superintendent Dale F. Raymo said the island’s problems were magnified by the lack of tree trimming and maintenance that the utilities down there put into their systems.

“They come back and really appreciate what we’ve done over the past 30 years,” Mr. Raymo said, referring to the crew’s newfound appreciation for everything they do back home.

“It’s our maintenance and tree trimming that really make a difference,” he said. “They said you could trim there for two or three years and not even put a dent in it.”

Massena Electric Utility Board member Rene Hart agreed and was able to pick up on the pride MED’s workers have from conversations he had with them upon their return.

“The guys I’ve talked to were proud of Massena Electric and the work they did,” he said. “We can all be proud of them.”

Each of the MED employees also said they would be willing to participate in future mutual aid projects.

“It’s to help out the people and get the lights back on for as many as we can,” Mr. Simpson said.

Mr. Simpson’s crew worked in Rockville Center from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9, while Mr. Simpson’s crew worked from Nov. 9 to 15.

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