Thunderstorms. Tornadoes. Ice storms. Snow storms. High winds. When Mother Nature strikes and power lines go down, who gets called? Lineworkers. Here in Cumberland County, that normally means Volunteer Energy. 

I opened my electric bill earlier this week and read the Powerlines newsletter. This month’s article indicated April 12 was Lineworker Appreciation Day. This resonated with me…not just because I have great admiration for the men and women who make sure our power stays on but because I grew up in a lineworker’s home and had relatives also in the power industry. My dad retired from Dillard Smith out of Chattanooga; my two uncles, George and Hoss, both retired from VEC. I saw firsthand the joys and the perils of being a lineworker.

My dad worked hurricanes in coastal states like South Carolina and Florida and a huge ice storm in Georgia and installed power lines on a daily basis at places such as the prison in Bledsoe County. But every single time a hurricane struck in our vicinity, he was gone for days and occasionally even weeks at time, helping restore power to residents affected by the storm. He spent half a year in the Sunshine State after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, coming home only a couple of times. I remember him telling me that it looked like a war zone—and he had been in the Army—and had never seen anything like the devastation that was left after the category 5 storm rolled across the Bahamas, Louisiana and Florida. 

My uncles were often on call. I can’t tell you how frequently a holiday dinner, family reunion or family meal was interrupted by a poorly timed storm that forced them out in all types of weather. Remember, while most of us are inside away from the elements, lineworkers are climbing poles, repairing lines, working on transformers and scrambling to get a substation up and running again.

Let’s not forget it is also one of the most dangerous jobs. Linework is listed as one  of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States thanks to being outside in all types of weather, heading 40 feet up in the air and often carrying tools, parts and equipment with them.

They are like postal workers: rain, sleet, snow does not deter them from performing their duties. They show up, suit up and climb up the power poles when things go awry.

Of course, I don’t like it when the power goes off any more than anyone else. But I, for one, am very cognizant of the fact that these folks are working as quickly and safely as they can to restore our power when the lights fade to black. I also recognize the great risks they take every time they get into the high voltage situations. I can recall several times over my dad and uncles’ long careers of hearing about injuries, some fatal, sustained by power workers. 

Weekday mornings, I often see a convoy of utility trucks heading to various parts of the county. It always reminds me of my dad and uncles, and I always say a quick prayer for the men’s safety as they work to keep our county up and running. 

VEC President and CEO Rody Blevins said, in this month’s edition of Powerlines, “Being a lineworker is not a glamorous or easy profession. It takes years of specialized training, on-going education, dedication, and equally important, a sense of service and commitment.”

I am sorry I am late in expressing my gratitude to all the power lineworkers who keep my reading light on, my diet sodas cold and our house warm/cold… particularly during the last year when most of us have been home far more than usual! Thank you!

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Around town this weekend:

Expired or unused medication you need to dispose of may be dropped by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Sheriff’s Department will be collecting medicines during its Drug Take Back Event at the Justice Center during that four-hour time period.

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If you are out and about Saturday night, watch for additional traffic, packed restaurants, pretty dresses and sharp dressed men. All three of Cumberland County’s High Schools are celebrating Prom 2021. Cumberland County High School will celebrate the annual spring formal at Homesteads 32 off Pigeon Ridge Road. Phoenix High School students will converge on the Cumberland County Community Complex and Stone Memorial High School will host its spring gala on the Cook Road campus. It is the first full blown prom night here since spring of 2019.

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