Fayetteville Public Utilities’ (FPU) crew is back from North Carolina after Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.

The crew of 10 volunteers left out Thursday, Sept. 13, to assist Tri-County EMC in Dudley, N.C.

“We were all praying for the best and preparing for the worst,” said FPU CEO and General Manager Britt Dye.

The crew arrived slightly ahead of the hurricane and began working first thing the next morning. When the team arrived, more than 400,000 customers were out of power in North Carolina. By Sunday, the outage count was down to around 250,000.

While there, the team faced many challenges. Environmental issues were some of the biggest concerns as the area is home to many hog, chicken and turkey farms. Those areas quickly became swampy and impassable, requiring boats to access power lines. The crew also faced debris, collapsing roads and high winds.

Around 2 p.m. in the afternoon on the first day, the operations manager halted work for the day due to 80 mile per hour wind gusts.

“The best thing they could do at that time was to stay safe. They went out early the next morning and worked 15- to 16-hour days until they headed home,” said Dye.

“It was hard to keep your hard hat on,” said Electric Operations Superintendent Lewis Steelman. “You would have to put your body to the wind to look up and see where a tree had fallen on a power line.”

 “We have a mutual-aid agreement among rural power systems that enables us to give assistance to other utilities following major storms,” said Dye. “It’s a benefit to those in need, and we know we can count on other utilities to be there for our utility and our customers if we ever have a catastrophic event.”

The crew returned on Sept. 20. When they arrived in Dudley, more than 17,000 customers were without power after the storm. FPU crews worked diligently, alongside crews from Florida, Arkansas, Ohio and Iowa, until all power was restored to the area.