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Work Begins To Restore Power After Hurricane Isaac


Corey Sharpe is one of the many people out working to restore electricity in Louisiana. He's a lineman with DEMCO. That's the Dixie Electric Membership Corporation, the state's largest power co-op. We reached him on the job in Denham Springs just outside Baton Rouge.

COREY SHARPE: Right now we actually just pulled up to an outage. A huge oak tree just fell on kind of - by one of our power lines and knocked down a service, the one at someone's house. So that's what we just came up to right here.

BLOCK: And it just fell - it's interesting. Is the ground so saturated now that trees are starting to topple the (unintelligible)?

SHARPE: Right. Right. Very saturated. A lot of the wind probably had a lot to do with it along with being saturated, you know, the combination of the two.

BLOCK: And when did you first come out? How long have you been trying to get the power back up and going?

SHARPE: Well, let's see. I worked all night Tuesday night. It's when the storm - the outer band first started hitting, and then Wednesday is whenever the brunt of the storm hit. I mean, the winds really picked up Wednesday. You can really tell, you know, being closer and closer, so we've been out since then.

BLOCK: And what does it look like as you drive around? What are you seeing?

SHARPE: A lot of broke poles, downed power lines, you know, trees down. It's, you know, it's what you get when you get winds up to that high-speed rain. And, you know, there's a lot of high water. The storm had a lot of rain and moisture with it, so there's definitely a lot of high water than what we normally see here.

BLOCK: Have you done this before, Mr. Sharpe, after other hurricanes? Are you used to seeing storms come through Louisiana and the next thing you know, you're out there trying to get the power back on?

SHARPE: Well, actually this is my first hurricane at work. I've been with DEMCO for a little over three years now. So I just missed Gustav back in 2008.

BLOCK: Where you are right now, do most people have power or don't have power?

SHARPE: Where I'm at right now, most people do. There's still a lot of people without, but they got a lot of contract this year and a lot of guys from other different co-ops and stuff that are here that's helping out. So we definitely got the manpower.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm. Are people coming in from out of state?

SHARPE: Yes, ma'am.

BLOCK: Where have they come from?

SHARPE: Texas, let's see, Arkansas and Oklahoma. I think there's a crew from Kentucky. You know, just different places, you know? They got here some time yesterday morning. I think they got - Wednesday night, Thursday morning is when they got here. So we still got a little way to go, but we're making some good progress.

BLOCK: Well, when you pull up outside a house, you must be the guy that everybody is happy to see.

SHARPE: Yeah, definitely. Well, you know that's the cool part about the job, you know? We get like, you know, a high five or like a thank you or, you know, there's a lot of gracious customers out there.

BLOCK: Anybody giving you something to eat or drink?

SHARPE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we've gotten a lot of (unintelligible), a lot of water. Man, we carry some on the truck also, you know, just in case. But, yeah, I'm getting a lot of Cokes and water, stuff like that. We got plenty of Gatorade on stock and stuff like that too, so...

BLOCK: What's the feeing like for you when you, you know, look down a street and you see lights coming back on because you've done your job?

SHARPE: Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. It's - I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't be doing this right now if I didn't love it. So definitely it's a good feeling, you know, putting people's electricity back on because I remember whenever I wasn't a lineman, what that feeling was like, you know, when your power would go out. Now I'm actually the guy putting electricity back on. So it's a wonderful feeling.

BLOCK: Well, any idea when you're going to be done?

SHARPE: I definitely plan on working all throughout the weekend and Labor Day and in , you know, it's a big question mark until then because whenever we take care of our central district, we have to go help another district who, you know, still got some power out.

BLOCK: So it sounds like you're going to laboring on Labor Day?



SHARPE: I definitely will be laboring on Labor Day. It's OK. It's OK. It's what I'm here for. No big deal.

BLOCK: Do you have power back home?

SHARPE: I sure do. You know, I got lucky. I got lucky, Melissa. My power never went out. Not one time.

BLOCK: People will say that that's because you work for the power company.

SHARPE: That is. I'm like, no, really, I had nothing to do with that. It's just, you know, it just never went out. I got lucky. But it was not that, I got lucky.

BLOCK: Well, Corey Sharpe, thanks for taking time out of your day to talk to us and good luck in everything.

SHARPE: Anytime. Thank you so much, Melissa. Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Corey Sharpe is a lineman with the DEMCO power co-op. He spoke with me on the job working to restore electricity in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.