Hurricane Sandy Emergency Power Restoration — New Jersey

November 2012

As Hurricane Sandy’s landfall along the mid-Atlantic coast became imminent, Riggs Distler immediately set to work preparing vehicles, equipment, and manpower. Areas of  Delaware, Maryland, New England, New Jersey,  New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C. all declared a state of emergency, and President Obama approved federal aid for affected states in anticipation of the hurricane’s impact on the Eastern seaboard. Over the next several weeks, our power restoration faced a busy schedule to help restore power to storm-affected areas.

Before the hurricane hit, Riggs Distler’s management team proactively reached out to our clients to plan potential power restoration efforts. We organized vehicles and equipment across all operations and staged them at our Cherry Hill corporate office. Our mechanics and warehouse employees worked around the clock to make sure all trucks were in proper working order, tooled up, and ready to roll once restoration efforts began.

In total, Riggs Distler readied approximately 360 vehicles and 100 pieces of equipment for restoration work, including:

  • 80 Pick-up trucks
  • 160 Bucket trucks
  • 80 Digger derricks
  • 40 various specialized vehicles: 77-inch and 105-inch bucket trucks, 6-by-6 digger derricks, dump trucks, stakebody trucks, etc.
  • 40 Pole trailers
  • 20 Material trailers
  • 25 Backyard machines (rear lot access bucket/diggers)
  • 10 Air compressors
  • 5 Puller and tensioner setups

The National Hurricane Center reported that Sandy resulted in approximately $65 million worth of damage. In New Jersey, 2 million homes lost power, and 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Challenges Overcome

Throughout this project, Riggs Distler contended with dangerous conditions. Our teams worked 16-hour days in areas with minimal resources (60% of gas stations in New Jersey were closed) and no local lodging available due to hurricane damage.

Hazard clearing was also a challenge. Road flooding, tree falls, road damage, and debris from houses and landscaping all presented major impediments, and our team had to remove or contend with these obstacles before performing the necessary work. Travel throughout the project area was extremely slow, with 90% of work areas having some sort of blockage restricting smooth travel. Flooding presented the most difficult restoration challenges, restricting access and travel plans and presenting a number of safety concerns.

Relying on our staff’s resourcefulness, extensive pre-storm supply planning, and constant contact with our Cherry Hill headquarters regarding safety and status updates, our restoration teams received guidance and support as situations arose. Our focus on communication and safety oversight ultimately allowed us to perform the work safely and effectively.

Results Delivered

Riggs Distler issued an all-hands call-out for this storm. Approximately 400 full-time employees across all operations came from as far south as Virginia, as far north as Maine, and from every state in between. With the large amount of manpower responding, safety coverage became extremely important. As a result, Riggs Distler deployed a safety presence of approximately 1 per 20 full-time employees, which included Safety Coordinators, Project Managers, Assistant Project Managers, and Field Superintendents.

Our restoration teams repaired transmission and distribution circuits ranging in voltage from 4 to 230kV. Focusing first on repairing the high-voltage transmission circuits that supply power to distribution networks, Riggs Distler’s staff then moved to fixing main line distribution feeds in order to restore connections to critical buildings, such as hospitals and police stations, and residential customers. Finally, we set about repairing the slow process of restoring spur lines to neighborhoods and local municipalities.

Working in concert with other utilities and lineworkers, Riggs Distler was able to restore power to our clients’ networks and customers affected by the storm. Our ability to plan effectively, work safely, and stay organized during a state of emergency allowed us to serve both our clients and the state by restoring power to the citizens of New Jersey after one of the most violent and destructive storms on record.