Gathered in a mall parking lot after a long day of helping to restore power in southeastern Virginia, a group of PPL Electric Utilities workers was getting some hero treatment.
Seeing a fleet of PPL vehicles assembled in the lot, a public bus driver abruptly stopped the bus, opened the door and made her feelings known.
“Thank you,” she yelled to them, giving them a thumbs up.
Moments later, an older woman pulled up in a sedan, rolled down her window and expressed her gratitude.
“I want to thank you for all you’ve done for us,” she said.
That scene at the Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, Va., was replayed over and over during the PPL workers’ four-day visit to an area where homeowners went days without power following the damaging storms brought by Hurricane Matthew.
By Thursday morning (10/13), the group of about 50 employees was on its way back to Pennsylvania. PPL was assisting Dominion Virginia Power, which had about half a million customers out of power once the storm made its way through the area.
PPL Electric Utilities provides mutual assistance to other utility companies when conditions are stable on its electricity grid in central and eastern Pennsylvania. PPL’s service territory was not affected by the hurricane and no severe weather was forecast while the employees were working in Virginia.
For example, some residents in Norfolk were told their power would be restored at noon on Wednesday (10/12). PPL crews had the lights back on at 8 p.m. the previous evening.
“It was great to see all of our regions come together for a team effort,” said Charlie Brown, the lead field manager on the trip. “Dominion’s people were amazed at how safe and productive our crews were. I think we exceeded our reputation.”
Every lineman, it seemed, took home with them a story about the gratitude and southern hospitality they were shown by people both stunned and impressed that crews from Pennsylvania traveled hours south to lend a hand.
There were the residents who applauded.
There was the woman who tracked down a PPL worker just to make sure he knew she was Pennsylvanian and that she always loved PPL.
There was the kind older woman who brought crews Krispy Kreme doughnuts and crackers as they worked to restore her power.
“When they see you show up, they’re so happy,” said Mike Miller, a lineman leader from Bethlehem. “It’s gratifying to know you’re helping people in need.”
Journeyman Lineman Jim Ceccarelli, another member of the group working in Norfolk, said he and his colleagues take pride in stepping up to the occasion when storms hit.
“The single reason we’re here is to help people,” Ceccarelli said.