MI utility crews await call for help after Matthew

Consumers Energy part of national mutual aid pact among utility companies

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — As Hurricane Matthew continues to churn through the Southern United States, utility crews all over the country — including some here in Michigan — wait to hear if they will be needed to help restore power to hard-hit areas.

If crews from elsewhere are called to go south as part of a national mutual aid pact, it won’t be a vacation.

“These aren’t posh conditions. And they’re working 16-hour days and trying to get eight hours of sleep. Not in the best conditions,” Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern said.

The accommodations aren’t posh, either:

“Often it’s in a gymnasium and they put them on cots,” Morgenstern added.

Despite the challenges, several Consumers workers from across Michigan have their bags packed and are ready to head toward the disaster. They have all volunteered for deployment, which usually lasts five to 10 days. The number of workers needed and when they will leave depends on Matthew’s aftermath.

“We’re waiting to see the actual damage so the utilities there have a firm grasp of the situation,” Morgenstern said. “We also have to say, ‘OK, if we take X number of crews out of the state of Michigan, what are the projects we have going on here in West Michigan and east Michigan that we need to get done for our customers?’ So it’s that balancing act that we’re sorting through right now.”

If and when they get there, crews will work out of large semi-truck trailers that tow restoration gear directly to where it’s needed.

“Basically what’s in here is a storeroom on wheels,” Morgenstern said, pointing to a similar trailer at a Consumers work yard in Wyoming.

Utilities across the country, including Consumers, participate in the mutual aid pact. The companies in the disaster area pay for the extra help. Michigan has used it in the past.

“We had 13 different states come into Michigan during the ice storm of 2013,” Morgenstern said.

Though this disaster is affecting the South, it is still a good reminder that everyone needs to be prepared. Consumers and Michigan State Police have online resources with tips about how you can get ready for inclement weather.