The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Time to applaud those oft-forgotten first responders

 

March 17, 2019



“I am a lineman for the county

“And I drive the main road

“Searchin' in the sun for another overload …”

— Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”

They gather annually to compete for fun, climbing 40 feet up with raw eggs in their mouths, or rescuing 165-pound mannequins from atop utility poles.

These linemen rodeos are usually held in the sunshine with tolerable weather and supporting family members and friends cheering them on.

That’s mostly how we’ve learned to appreciate their considerable skills, through those competitions. It’s fun to watch the athletes in action.

But the real-life jobs for electric company linemen are not spectator sports. They’re dangerous, difficult and often under appreciated, usually performed in isolated, dark, wet, windy, freezing conditions.

We were reminded again on Tuesday when most of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle experienced power outages amidst hurricane-force winds.

One Xcel Energy lineman stationed in Hereford died while working to restore power to his community. We didn’t hear about the sprained ankles, busted knuckles or sore backs many of them are undoubtedly still nursing this weekend.

Officials estimated more than 150,000 customers experienced interruption of their electric service because of the storm; many were without power for more than a day.

For most of us, the “bomb cyclone” was an inconvenience. For the 500-plus linemen and other field personnel, it meant long, stressful hours in conditions so dangerous they resulted in a train being blown off its track near Logan. Eighteen-wheelers were also toppled on the roads, roofs were peeled away like banana skins, and trees decades old were uprooted, crashing through fences and homes.

“This has been one of the worst wind storms to impact our system in years,” Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves said in the middle of the battle. “We understand how trying this is for our customers, and we appreciate their continued understanding as our employees work to restore service.”

Indeed, many of us grew frustrated during the day weather watchers termed “historic” as we struggled to complete routine responsibilities without power.

Now that the winds have calmed, and we’ve all gained some perspective on how our lives compared to those working to help us cope with Mother Nature’s fury, this would be a good time to express sincere appreciation to those linemen from Xcel as well as our rural electric cooperatives.

They are too-often the forgotten first responders — far less visible than police, firefighters and medical workers, but every bit as valuable and essential to our comfort and safety in perilous times.

So thank you all for your dedication, courage, professionalism, athleticism, knowledge and willingness to apply your skillsets without fanfare, all while your loved ones worry as they wait for your return home.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

— David Stevens

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