When news came that Hurricane Rita was headed for the upper Texas Gulf Coast, evacuees fled the area by the thousands. As those same evacuees returned home, they faced grim news that they might be without electricity for weeks, if not months. Thanks to some Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) employees, that's not the case anymore.
"It was an opportunity for us as group, and BTU as a company, to go and help some folks out that are less fortunate than we are," said Chick Herrin, crew supervisor, BTU.
Six linemen from BTU went to San Augustine, near the Texas/Louisiana border, to help the city restore its power supply. As soon as the team arrived, they saw the damage Rita caused.
"You just didn't know where to go there was so much stuff that was torn up," said Herrin.
"Wire was laying all in the street, the pole was broken over. We were thinking if this is what it's going to be like while we are here, we've got a long haul," said James Brown, crew member, BTU.
And a long haul it was. At first, the team worked 36 hours straight. After a little rest, the work load eased up, but not much. The linemen worked 17 hours a day for five straight days. Now that it's over, they say all the hard work was necessary.
"When you have no electricity or power at all and you're used to it, especially in Texas in 90 degree weather, it becomes a necessity it's not just a luxury," said Brown.
If 17 hour days weren't enough, the BTU linemen also had to deal with things like poison oak and being chased by stray dogs. But it all payed off, 98 percent of the city now has power. To show their appreciation, the mayor and city manager presented the linemen with a key to the city.
"I guess they decided since we had helped so much they were so grateful, I guess they thought that it was a good gesture, and it was," said Herrin.
The days were long and the work was tough and without the help of BTU, San Augustine might not have had power until late October or November. But the linemen feel, they were the lucky ones.
"They gave us a lot more I think, we made a lot of friends. Hopefully, we'll get to see them again under different circumstances," said Herrin.
Each member of the team made it home safely. After a little rest it's back to work, for Bryan residents.