Millions of people may be without power in Florida for days, if not weeks, in Irma's wake, and workers from Massachusetts' largest utility are already on the way to help.
A 100-person crew from Eversource convoyed down to Maryland this weekend, expecting marching orders Monday for about 70 vehicles including bucket trucks and a mobile command center.
Steven Blair oversees line-workers on the crew from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He says this kind of work is both rewarding, and also dangerous — whether it's snakes and spiders, or just overwhelming unpredictability.
"It's something we all love to do and [is] very, very scary at times," Blair said. "You know, when there's so much doubt at once, it can be a little bit overwhelming. You always have to question your surroundings. You have to have your situational awareness — a very heightened sense of that."
Blair says the number one killer of all line workers is home generators that send power back into the lines the crew is working on, a situation he expects to encounter a lot in Florida.
And while he's worked disasters before, this one's of a different magnitude altogether, he says, and that's on the crew members' minds.
"This hurricane ... it's been modeled up against Hurricane Andrew from 25 years ago, and this thing is like twice the size, so, you know, we're all on edge a little bit," Blair said. "We're hoping that these people make it out okay because, ultimately, these people's lives are being impacted — so it weighs on these guys a lot."
Blair says disasters like this are full of dangers for his crew — they'll be in the elements for many hours at a time, with few breaks, and maybe just tents and cots. But, he says, it's ultimately something they all take great pride in.
"I guess it's not everybody likes to do it. And we take a lot of pride in knowing that we do," said Blair. "And it's not for everybody, but it is for us and ... the pride comes from knowing that you know there's opportunities and times that we actually get to show up and provide some sense of normalcy to these people's lives again — so we really look forward to that. We look forward to going in there and doing what we can do."
The Eversource crew may be in Florida for weeks, helping to restore power long after the massive hurricane leaves the state.