As part of a statewide municipal mutual aid agreement, on October 12 a crew from the Town of Front Royal’s Energy Services Department embarked to assist City of Martinsville crews in recovery work in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
That Town Energy Department crew included Line Crew Supervisor, Carey Saffelle, along with three Line Technicians, Alan Bell, Preston Toms and Hunter Partlowe. Their boss, Front Royal Energy Services Director David Jenkins explained the advent of their mission.
“The Town of Front Royal, along with many other municipalities in Virginia, is part of a Mutual Aid Agreement for Emergency Assistance. These municipalities have agreed to furnish personnel, equipment, supplies and materials in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency that affects or causes damage to their electrical systems,” Jenkins said.
As Michael began strengthening toward a U.S. landfall on a northern track toward the Florida Panhandle it became apparent Virginia might be impacted. According to Jenkins, “Beginning on Tuesday, October 9th, the heads of each municipality’s electric department began holding daily conference calls to discuss the possible threat Hurricane Michael would pose; who would be affected; and which municipalities would be available to send aid should it be needed.”
On Friday morning, October 12th, Jenkins received the call that Martinsville, Virginia was in need of assistance. Consequently, Saffelle, Bell, Partlowe and Toms began the 4-hour trip south with two bucket trucks, a line truck and a pick-up truck. Their mission was to assist in repairing the electrical infrastructure that had been devastated by Michael’s path northward through Martinsville.
What, we wondered, would they find when they arrived.
Michael 2018 was one of the strongest and most destructive hurricanes to hit the U.S. by several measurement criteria, including atmospheric pressure (3rd behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Camille in 1969) and maximum sustained winds (2nd strongest since Andrew in 1992 and 4th strongest ever measured). Michael 2018 was also the strongest storm ever to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle on the western Gulf side of the state.
Approaching the Florida panhandle peak winds were measured at 155 mph, with 13 to 18-foot storm surges adding to the coastal devastation. Michael made landfall October 10 as a Category 4 storm (131-155 mph) with winds just 7 mph under a Category 5 designation. As it traveled inland on a northeasterly path it weakened to a tropical storm designation traveling across Georgia, the Carolinas and portions of Virginia.
The storm regained some strength off the mid-Atlantic coast, being classified as an extratropical cyclone on October 12, and crossed the Atlantic impacting the Spanish-Portugal Iberian Peninsula before dissipating on October 16.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, by October 28 at least 60 deaths had been attributed to the storm, including 45 in the United States and 15 in Central America. In Florida great swaths of the towns of Mexico Beach and Panama City looked as is flattened by a nuclear explosion.
Financially Michael was also catastrophic, with a minimum estimate of $11.28 billion in damages, including $100 million in economic losses in Central America; $6 billion in destroyed U.S. fighter jets at Tyndall Air Force Base; and at least $1.5 billion in insurance claims in the U.S. Reports indicate losses to agriculture and timber in excess of $3.68 billion.
And with high winds and rain come power outages.
According to Front Royal Energy Department Director Jenkins, at the time of his crew’s arrival, seventy-five percent of the 7,500 electrical utility customers in Martinsville were without power. The Front Royal crew was immediately pressed into action.
“They were responsible for repairs over a span of 11 streets and right of ways including the replacement of 12 utility poles and 5 transformers. From the time they left Front Royal on Friday morning, to the time they returned on Tuesday the crew had worked a total of 65 hours,” Jenkins told Royal Examiner.
According to Jenkins, crew Supervisor Carey Saffelle was the only one of the four with previous experience in a disaster aide situation.
Let’s get to work
We asked Saffelle and his crew their impressions of the assignment and what they encountered upon arriving in Martinsville.
“Driving down to Martinsville, as we got within 20 miles, I started seeing Fuse Cut-outs open and tap line poles with ribbon on them, trees across lines and thought to myself here it begins. I got excited, this is what we are trained for this is what gets us going,” crew chief Saffelle said, adding, “When we got to Martinsville, we met the Director and learned how bad their system was. He said, ‘You ready to check into a motel?’ I said, ‘No Sir let’s get to work, you figure that out.’
“Their guys had been working almost 24 hours at that point and we were fresh,” Saffelle said of his and his crew’s “let’s get to work” attitude. And what they faced was a daunting task. We asked crew chief Saffelle how what he encountered compared to past experiences with disaster relief.
“Every Storm has its own characteristics. This Storm was comparable to the Derecho Storm in 2012. Parts of the town were untouched other parts were completely destroyed. Huge trees down that you wouldn’t think would come down, down on lines, roads and houses. One street completely destroyed, the next street not touched. It’s amazing actually. The customers were a mix of excited to see us and very appreciative that we were there, while others were not and upset that they had been out of power for 8, 16 and 24+ hours. It is the same with every natural disaster,” Saffelle observed.
For his crew of three linemen it was a first experience of disaster relief – what was it like for them?
“I was excited to go work storm trouble but, I didn’t know what to expect,” Alan Bell said. “Upon arrival we met the Director at Martinsville and were told the state of their territory after the storm had passed. We got out to the first job and went to work. One location to the next each job had its own challenges with being in an area we had never been before, but it shared similarities to the work we do at home.
“When it was time to come home power had been restored to nearly every customer and the city was looking nothing like when we arrived. It was an excellent experience with accommodations being better then I expected. I feel satisfied and grateful to have been selected to go help restore the system in Martinsville and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again in the future,” Bell concluded.
“My first thought when we arrived was, man oh man, how bad was the storm? Then after seeing how many poles were snapped and utility lines were ripped down, it was BAD,” Preston Toms told us.
“There were very large trees down on roads, lines and even houses. People were thankful for us coming down to help them out. It was an exciting and great opportunity to be able to help Martinsville restore power to their customers,” Toms concluded.
“It was as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Hunter Partlowe added. “There was no real way to prepare for it. It was very long days with long hours. We had a four-man crew and made the best of it. I am glad I got to experience something that bad and help others when the needed it.”
Of his crew’s hectic schedule, Saffelle said, “We arrived in Martinsville Friday at 2 p.m. and started working immediately. There were trees down everywhere; every utility line was on the ground, numerous poles broken of all types. We did what we were trained to do at the best of our ability. They were long days, no sleep, balls-to-the-wall, getting it done. We worked until Saturday morning at 3 a.m.”
Saturday the crew worked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sunday and Monday did 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. shifts.
“We were released Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. to drive back home. I am very proud of my guys – all of them linemen; they stepped up for the Town of Front Royal and aided a destroyed community that was in need of help. It is always a great feeling to help others when in need; it was exciting to help restore power to the citizens of the City of Martinsville VA.,” Crew Chief Saffelle concluded.
Job well done, men – you did your town and its Energy Services Department proud.
Jenkins noted that the Town of Front Royal’s Energy Services Department consists of 15 full-time employees, 8 of which are part of the Line crew. With half of their total man power in Martinsville, the remaining Line Technicians were tasked with maintaining day-to-day operations here at home.
Job well done on the home front as well, for those left to tend to more mundane day-to-day energy department needs.
The MORE Program presents a video in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Wednesdays, the MORE Program students work on their video and photography skills. Some students have shown natural talent in the director position, some as a manager organizing behind the scenes. There are students who love to ask interview questions and prompt thoughts, and others who love to be on camera.
This week our project was to organize and present a video on Martin Luther King, Jr. Grab a cup of tea, sit back, and enjoy this 6 minute presentation on MLK. The students organized, directed, and filmed it all!
Some famous MLK quotes the students included:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
The MORE Program provides afternoon care to middle school students in Warren County. We provide healthy snacks, reinforce skills required for academic success, and provide hands-on enrichment activities that teach important lessons about future employment, health, and wellness. We provide all of this at no cost to parents, thanks to state and federal grants, the Warren Coalition, and Warren County Public Schools.
Jennifer Avery, Jenspiration LLC
540-683-0790 | www.jenspirations.com
1. Behind the scenes as the MORE Program students gather to film the next portion of their MLK video.
2. Jennifer Avery, Jenspiration LLC helps students edit video footage on Movie Maker to prepare for the final product.
Skyline High School’s Environmental Science, Ecology, and Green Team is taking on another Action Project
We are learning to be compassionate, global-minded, Earth stewards in Environmental Science, Ecology, and Green Team at Skyline High School. That means, taking what we learn about in class and using it to better the world. One of our Action Projects is to help clean up our waterways… from narrow streams that flow into the Shenandoah River, to the Potomac River, to the Chesapeake Bay, and on into the Atlantic Ocean. We have been horrified to see pictures of aquatic organisms suffering and dying after consuming and becoming entangled in plastics. How sad it is to learn that soon our oceans will have more plastic particles in them than fish!
Please help us change this! We want to raise awareness in a meaningful and ethical way through a “Buy One, Give One” fundraiser. We are selling cotton, organic, fair trade, reusable grocery bags along with an autographed copy of one of Ellie Jackson’s storybooks, “Duffy’s Lucky Escape!,” “Nelson’s Dangerous Dive,” or “Marli’s Tangled Tale.” Each story is based on the true story of a sea animal who has suffered because of human waste. Our goal is to not only bring awareness through the selling of the products, but also to educate our Warren County Kindergartners (almost 400) by “giving” one bag/book combo to each of them at an educational assembly that SHS students will present. We want to educate the children about the benefits to people and the Earth of using “organic,” “fair trade,” and “reusable” products. We hope the gifts and education will help motivate them and their families to carry it forward.
“Buy One, Give One”
Pick 1 Bag & Pick 1 Book = $35.00
CLICK HERE to download and fill out the order form. Drop off or mail the form to Kara Lewallen at Skyline High School. You can also contact Kara with any questions you may have by emailing email@example.com or calling (540) 631-0366.
If you do not feel you can buy a bag and book, there are other ways to help…
- Reduce your plastic use.
- Recycle the recyclable plastics.
- Vote at the grocery store by choosing biodegradable packaging when possible.
- Educate others for the good of our Earth.
A tremendous THANK YOU to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative ($500), Walmart ($1,000), Gallant International, and Ellie Jackson for helping us make a positive difference!
With love for Earth and Organisms,
SHS Environmental Science, Ecology, & Green Team
Iwo Jima, the iconic battle and legacy
On Wednesday, January 16th at 2:15 pm, Randolph-Macon Academy hosted a free presentation entitled, “Iwo Jima, the iconic battle and legacy,” presented by Shayne Jarosz.
In addition to serving as the Director of Special Events for the Iwo Jima Association of America, Inc., Jarosz is a Marine Corps veteran and taught history for 28 years in Fairfax County. In his current position, he provides military historical tours to battlefield sites around the world, including Guadalcanal, Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima, Korea and Vietnam. Jarosz’s presentation on Iwo Jima took place in Melton Memorial Gymnasium on the R-MA campus.
For more information, visit the Iwo Jima Association of America’s website.
Why is my electric bill so high?
Front Royal Town Manager Joe Waltz spoke today (January 17th) with Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner about the very question.
The Department of Energy Services provides electrical services for almost 8,000 customers in the Town of Front Royal and Warren County. The Town has been providing this service for over 123 years while providing the best reliable service in the Shenandoah Valley.
The Town of Front Royal is one of sixteen municipal electric systems in Virginia and is one of over 2,000 municipal-owned systems in the United States. The Energy Resource Department is a self supported enterprise fund, with their total costs for operation derived through the electric rate structure.
The Town is also actively participating in both Federal and State legislation to maintain the safest, most reliable and economical cost available for our customers to keep rates low. They are active members in the following organizations:
Municipal Electric Power Association of Virginia (MEPAV). http://www.mepav.org/
American Municipal Power – Ohio (AMP-Ohio). http://www.amppartners.org/home
American Public Power Association (APPA). https://www.publicpower.org/
International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA). https://www.imsasafety.org/
The operation of an electrical system is a twenty-four hour, 365 day a year job. The Town of Front Royal Electric Department strives to keep your lights on and your power outages to a minimum. Even during the worst conditions be assured that your friends and neighbors at the Energy Services Department will be working hard to restore your power.
Their mission is to provide the best quality power and customer service while keeping the price low and service interruptions to a minimum. If you have suggestions or questions, please do not hesitate to contact them.
Front Royal, VA 22630
7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Citizens speak out about high electric bills
On January 14, 2019, Front Royal Town Council held a public hearing to amend Front Royal Municipal Town Code Chapter 70 pertaining to Electricity to bring it up-to-date and consistent with other areas of the Town Code, as presented. Several citizen spoke to the the Council about their utility bills and why their electric bills are so high.
Pedestrian struck near Rural King in Front Royal
FRONT ROYAL – A pedestrian was struck by a pickup truck Tuesday afternoon in front of Rural King Front Royal Police say.
According to a press release from the office of Chief Kahle Magalis, a call came in around 3 p.m. regarding a pedestrian struck in front of the retail store, located at 465 South Street in the Royal Plaza Shopping Center.
Responding officers found the pedestrian, Jeffrey Richardson, 40, of Reliance, lying in the parking lot. The release states that “it was determined that Richardson was struck by a 2011 Ford F-150 operated by Thomas Clark, 83, of Front Royal.”
Clark stated to officers that his foot had slipped off the brake while going over a speed bump and his foot made contact with the accelerator, which caused him to accidentally strike Richardson.
Richardson was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Winchester Medical Centers Trauma Unit for observation.
No charges have been placed against the driver at this time.