Published in the September 22, 2017 edition.


WAKEFIELD — Most of the weather in the area this week has been dismal, with overcast skies and periods of rain, but it’s nothing like what has been taking place in the Caribbean and a few weeks ago, in Florida, when Hurricane Irma walloped the state.

In response to the massive destruction and power outages throughout southern Florida, the Gulf Coast and portions of the Atlantic side, a crew from the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department (WMGLD), left Wakefield in line trucks and other vehicles after receiving an SOS from the Florida Municipal Electric Association.

WMGLD General Manager Pete Dion said that Dan Flynn electric superintendent, Rich Fedele and Ralph Brown, both lead linemen, left on Sunday, Sept. 10 and arrived two days later ready for work. They are expected to return to the area by the end of the week.

Other linemen also arrived from Merrimac, Danvers, Middleton and other Massachusetts cities and towns.

Once the crew crossed over the state line, they headed to New Smyrna Beach along the Atlantic coast and then headed west to Barto and Lakeland, inland communities east of Tampa.

With a combined effort, workers got power up and running again. Work crews from Connecticut and the mid-Atlanti states also responded.

As of Monday, Sept. 18, 7,000 Florida residents were still without power.

NEPA, an acronym for Northeast Public Power Association, reached out to the WMGLD several weeks ago after it was determined that more help than what the state of Florida could provide was needed.

Altogether, there were 75 men in three groups who responded to the scene from Massachusetts, said Dion. Aside from Wakefield and other communities, the other two groups included workers from the South Shore and Central Massachusetts.

“There was devastation in some places,” said Dion. “People who live in the areas we served were appreciative of the help we gave.”

In Barto, Dion said, residents prepared food and provided toiletries like shaving kits for the men, and even arranged for their laundry to be done.

“We’re always willing to offer mutual aid,” said Dion. “You never know when we’re going to need it ourselves.”

Dion said that Hurricane Jose, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, will miss us, but he is still on standby, not taking any chances.

“We’re keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Maria,” said Dion. “I hope she doesn’t come our way, but if she does, we’ll be prepared.”

Travelers, such as newlyweds who have plans to honeymoon in the Caribbean and people planning to attend special events in Florida, and are also keeping an eye on weather conditions.