Ann Sherwood was without power for eight days due to damage from Hurricane Irma. Her power went out Sunday, Sept. 10.
Sherwood finally got her power back Monday, thanks to Gainesville Regional Utilities and some patience.
“I understand the subdivisions and feel sorry for the people who are flooded,” she said. “They needed more help. We were coping with paper plates and plastic, but
our friends and neighbors gave us ice cubes and fresh water.”
She said she was not scared of the hurricane due to experience with worse environmental conditions. Sherwood, who lived in the Philippines, said there was a volcano eruption, located 8.5 miles from her home. Her house in the Philippines flooded and collapsed, and left her and her husband without food and water.
“We can’t control the weather,” she said. “There are much more scary things in life.”
Sherwood said her friends from Australia stayed with her during and after Hurricane Irma. The friends planned to come to Florida months in advance, and agreed to keep their travel plans to be with Sherwood and help cleanup the aftermath.
Graeme Speed, who stayed with Sherwood during Irma, said the most difficult part of the hurricane was to be without water.
“We also thought there would be a shortage of food, but there wasn’t,” Speed said. “The markets had salad and chicken.”
Solon Bellot, a 49-year-old safety and training coordinator for GRU, said that he and his coworkers were well-prepared for the hurricane.
Before Hurricane Irma hit Gainesville, GRU had several meetings to come up with a plan to get customers back on their feet.
“It was less than what we expected for a Category 5 hurricane,” Bellot said.
His crew was restoring the last of Gainesville’s power outages Monday on 43rd street.
Gary Mckenzie, another safety and training coordinator for GRU, said this hurricane left the worst damage he has seen in his 37 years of working for GRU.
“It was almost as bad as Hurricane Frances in 2004,” Mckenzie said. “Frances was a little bit stronger – poles fell and more electricity was out.”
He said his crew started working Sept. 10, but stopped when winds hit 30 mph.
“Police stopped responding at 50 miles per hour,” Bellot said. “They didn’t want to put themselves and other people in harms way.”
Bellot said about 53,000 customers’ power outages have been restored. He, his crew and a crew from Indiana have been working to restore power since the winds died down Monday, Sept. 11.
“We made sure we had crews from out-of-state coming,” Bellot said.
Willie Daniels, a 37-year-old lineman restored some of the last power outages in Gainesville on Monday.
Daniels’ team is one of the crews who came out-of-state. They work for Scottsburg Municipal Electric Utility in Indiana. The group drove 16 hours from Indiana to help GRU and its customers.
“The hours are long. We’ve been working about 16 hours a day,” Daniels said.
He said the drive to Gainesville was difficult because they had to stop every few miles for fuel.
Daniels’ crew has been in town since people started reporting their power outages. He also said he’s unsure of what day they will be going home, but he thinks they’ll be able to leave in the next week. As of now, they are still in Gainesville.
Scottsburg Municipal Electric Utility is paying for the group to stay at the Hilton across the street from the University of Florida’scampus for the time being.
GRU will have a follow-up meeting to prepare for any storm that comes next, according to Bellot. His team will go over what went right and what went wrong during Hurricane Irma.
“With each storm, it’s a learning experience,” he explained. “We’re always looking to improve.”