This past weekend’s snowstorm left nearly 7,000 people without power for hours in the El Paso area.
ABC-7’s newsroom was flooded with phone calls from viewers upset with the electric company.
On Wednesday ABC-7 tagged along with a utility crew, who explained what caused outages over the weekend and why it takes so much time to fix the problem.
El Paso Electric crews have to work in the snow and the cold to fix electrical wires sometimes carrying up to 24,000 volts.
“Our job is known to be one of the most hazardous jobs in the world,” said Oscar Venegas, El Paso Lineman.
“High voltage linemen is a very dangerous job,” added Venegas.
Linemen as they are called are the last line of defense when winter weather cripples the city’s power grid.
They’re tasked with fixing high voltage power lines but their problems start even before they get to the site.
“The traffic, the streets, the snow and the ice on the road,” Venegas said are some of the hazards
Venegas has been on the field more than a decade he’s seen the many dangers of the job.
“Wires everywhere. We’re working with energized conductors as well as trees that have fallen over,” Venegas said.
Venegas tells ABC-7 there were several problems crews had to deal with the past weekend’s snow storm.
“With all the weight of the snow the tree limbs end up breaking and the tree limbs fall on our lines and of course take our lines down sometimes they’ll take our poles down with it,” Venegas said.
And it’s not only the ice bringing down the 1,000 pound poles.
“Icy roads cause cars to veer off the roads and hit our poles,” Venegas said.
There’s also many areas in the city where lineman can’t use the buckets they use to reach the top of the power lines. This means they have to climb up the poles the old-school way.
“We’ve had to climb poles when they are iced over as we’re climbing the pole we’re hitting it with a hammer trying to knock the ice off,” Venegas told ABC-7.
It’s not just snow and tree branches they have to deal with. They send ABC-7 a picture of a lineman removing a trampoline from power lines during a wind storm.
“We do have a lot of calls that come in during these situations,” Venegas said, “And we just do the best that we can and we do it as safe as possible,” Venegas said.
Venegas wanted to remind El Paso Electric customers: Just be patient we will get to you, we will turn your lights back on.
Venegas tells ABC-7 they prepared days in advance for the storm. They had crews ready day-of they had crews on call, the guys that maintain the vehicles were called in to have those trucks ready and they tell me they are ready for that possible next round of rain and snow.