Shedding Light on Power RestorationJan 13, 2023 04:00PM ● By Shannon Williamson
Photo by Jenell Dolan
Just shy of a category 5 storm, hurricane Ian tied the record for the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States. The catastrophic destruction to Southwest Florida left the whole community in shock. LCEC, an electric cooperative serving parts of the region, took a direct hit to its service territory, and nearly all 235,000 customers were left without power.
LCEC employees faced many personal challenges, as they too live in Southwest Florida. More than 40 LCEC employees experienced severe damage to their homes, leaving them and their families displaced. Every LCEC employee plays a vital role in the storm restoration plan and is required to report to work the minute it is safe after a storm hits. All leave time is canceled, and getting the lights back on becomes a priority for everyone on the team. Employees put their typical job duties on hold to pitch in during restoration, working around the clock to restore power as quickly as possible.
An example of this dedication is LCEC
employee Bryce Griffin.
“I know we lost everything, but it only made us stronger. You realize what you do not need in life. Finding the blessings in this disaster has strengthened our new family.” –Bryce Griffin
Griffin encountered multiple life-changing experiences during the week leading up to the hurricane. He had worked at LCEC for less than six months as a mechanic in the fleet management department. His wife, Hailey, was 41 weeks pregnant with their first child. Although Griffin does not typically work weekends, he worked a 10-hour day on Saturday, September 24, to prepare for the storm. A quick visit home to get a couple of hours of sleep quickly turned into a trip to the hospital. Hailey gave birth to their son September 25, three days before the storm hit.
Griffin had very little time to prepare for the storm and was barely able to lift everything in his home off the ground before returning to work.
Despite the preparation, the storm surge found its way into their home and destroyed everything. The Griffin family had furnished and moved into their home only two weeks prior to Ian’s destruction. Their home was a total loss, and they were forced to move in with a family member. “We lost pretty much everything—important paperwork, all of our furniture, clothes, and all of the baby stuff like his clothes, books... everything,” says Griffin.
Griffin worked 16-hour days for 24 days in a row. Hailey explained how difficult this time was for her. “The transition into motherhood alone is tough, but seeing your son’s new crib sitting in the trash, our mattress saturated in water, and your husband being gone for weeks on end was hard,” says Hailey.
She understands that the work her husband does strengthens the whole community. “LCEC was extremely supportive, we received so many donations from employees, and people were always checking in to see how we were doing,” she says.
As fortunate as the Griffin family feels to stay with family members, they are searching for a new home, as they are still unable to live in theirs. “I know we lost everything, but it only made us stronger. You realize what you do not need in life. Finding the blessings in this disaster has strengthened our new family,” says Griffin.
While LCEC employees are safe physically, like many in Southwest Florida, their homes and cars have been lost, and they are just now finding the time to rebuild. In the spirit of electric cooperatives, the commitment to serving members never faltered.
Shannon Williamson is a feature writer and media specialist who contributes to newsletter articles, media releases, blogs, and various other applications.