Xcel electricity crews return from east coast - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Xcel electricity crews return from east coast

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Superstorm Sandy left more than 8 million homes on the east coast without power, according to Reuters.

Restoring electricity to that many people is a task a utility company struggles to handle on its own.

Thanks to a mutual aid program, New York utilities were able to request crews from across the country to help with the aftermath of Sandy, said Mike Herro, Xcel Energy community service manager.

More than 240 Xcel Energy workers volunteered their time to go out east and help with the Sandy relief effort, Herro said.

"Something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Kirt Kozey, an Xcel lineman from the La Crosse office.

Kozey was one of the Xcel workers who traveled out east.

"(It was) just to go out and help people, and then you get to see all the stuff you don't get to see around here," Kozey said.

Crews helped American Electric Power rebuild electricity distribution systems in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and then traveled further out east to help out Long Island, New York.

"They sent us out to Long Island where they had a lot of wind damage, big trees, flooding, stuff like that," Kozey said. "Lot of backyard poles getting ripped down, wires getting ripped down."

"You're so used to walking into a room and turning on the light. I still went into a room and turned on the light. We had no idea what was going on. We're listening to a radio to find out what was going on with the storm," said Liz Sauer, a Long Island resident who lost power in her Plainview home for two weeks.

"They were actually going up and fixing poles and fixing problems. These guys were amazing," she said of the visiting crews helping to restore her power.

Kozey said he spent his time helping restore power to Great Neck, Long Island, about a half hour from Plainview.

"(There was) all kinds of damage. Anything you can think of," Kozey said. "You see trees falling through houses."

Even after working 16-hour days and sleeping on a cot in a gymnasium, Kozey said, "I'd probably do it again."

Volunteering to aid the next natural disaster is still a possibility.

Xcel electricity crews just made their way back to the Midwest. Kozey returned to La Crosse Friday.

Xcel still has natural gas crews out east. They will not return until after Thanksgiving.

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