Share story

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Appalachian Power Engineering Technician Todd Norris, of Beckley, sat in a utility truck for over 72 hours as he and many others made their way south of West Virginia to conduct power restoration after Hurricane Irma left many without.

Norris said he began his journey Sept. 11, but made a pit stop in Wytheville, Va. first.

“We stayed there the first night,” Norris said. “But our supervisors were worried the hurricane might affect our area back home.”

That Monday night, wind gusts reached 30 miles per hour in certain areas of West Virginia, and a drizzle or two occurred. Norris said, thankfully, West Virginia was in the clear and he was given the go-ahead to continue his path to south.

He said the next morning he made a journey to Walterboro, S.C.

“What should have been a four-hour or so long trip took us 12 hours.”

Norris described the traffic on his journey as bumper-to-bumper. “There was barely any room between our truck and the vehicle in front of me.

After the stop in Walterboro, Norris continued his journey. After more bumper-to-bumper traffic, he finally reached Tampa, Fla., his final destination.

“It was a trip that took much longer than expected,” he said. “It’s crazy to see so many people coming and going.”

Norris said his job as an engineering technician requires him to do what he calls damage assessment.

“We’re out here in Florida looking for damage and reporting what we find,” he said. “We take a look at electrical circuits at homes and businesses and report where the problems are so a crew can come behind us and fix it.”

Norris said the evening of Sept. 14 he had not seen much damage yet.

“The majority of what we have seen so far is fallen trees,” he said. “Luckily we haven’t seen much damage.”

“Surprisingly, it just kind of seems like a typical thunderstorm we get back home came through and knocked down the trees, but we haven’t seen anything major yet.”

Norris recalled traveling to Tampa in 2004, after Hurricane Charley made its way through Tampa. He said that experience was much worse than what he is seeing now.

“Hurricane Irma has definitely been devastating, there’s no doubt about that, but luckily the damage in this area of Florida has not been major.”

He said power outages have made their way into Tampa, but luckily not as many as they had expected.

“With a job like this you just never know to expect” he said. “But that’s just part of it.”

Norris is staged at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, just one staging area of six within the state.

“There are at least 500 trucks at this staging area, and they are spreading out all over Tampa to work on power issues,” he said. “So although there may not be much damage, it’s impressive to see how many people are taking time to work here.”

Norris said as he was leaving behind his wife and two children in Beckley.

What made the leave harder was something as simple as soccer season.

“Both of my children play soccer, and during the time I’m set to be gone several games are going on,” he said.

He said leaving definitely makes the job tough, but it provides him with a feeling of fulfillment at the same time.

“Leaving is hard, it’s never easy. But sometimes things happen that make the job worth it.”

Norris said earlier during the day on Sept. 14, he was working on the side of the road when a vehicle passed him.

The driver made it a point to stop, put the vehicle in reverse, and stop beside Norris.

“She rolled down the window and she thanked us,” he said. “It was so rewarding to hear someone say that.”

Norris said everyone within the Tampa area he has encountered so far in his journey has made him feel blessed.

“That’s why we do stuff like this. That’s why we sometimes have to make the journey and leave our families for a bit.”

“She was just so nice,” he said. “After people have gone through so much due to the storm, they’re happy and thankful we are here.”

He said regardless of the little damage he has seen thus far, his job is rewarding nonetheless.

“We’re still glad to be here and help.”


Information from: The Register-Herald,