A seven-person team from the Omaha Public Power District is helping the New York relief effort, deep in the bowels of Manhattan.
The cable splicers from OPPD have acquired the name The Omaha Gang from some of the Con Edison colleagues they are assisting, said Jerry Benedict, supervisor of the OPPD crew.
When the crews assemble at 7 a.m. in a Manhattan park, dog walkers come up, shake their hands and thank them. “They all ask what part of the country we're from and stuff like that,” Benedict said.
Hurricane Sandy last week tore through portions of the northeast, knocking out power for millions.
Con Edison, the New York utility, asked for OPPD's help because Omaha's underground network grid looks and functions like New York City's, Benedict said. The cable splicers are working 8 to 15 feet underground to repair cables damaged by flooding.
“To be honest with you, they're making huge progress already,” he said.
Other cable workers have come from Alabama, Ohio, Kansas City, Mo., Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
The Omahans arrived in New York on Thursday and underwent an orientation session. They spent that night in a hotel and put in a 12-plus-hour day working on the power system.
But New York Marathon competitors had reserved much of the hotel space, and the OPPD crew and many other workers slept Friday night on cots inside a boat along the Hudson River. The marathon was canceled, and the Omahans moved back into a hotel Saturday.
From the boat they could see the Statue of Liberty. On Saturday, the crew worked near the Twin Towers memorial and museum, which honor the people killed and the skyscrapers toppled in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The experience is gratifying and heady for the OPPD crew, which will work up to two weeks in New York.
“I've never been here before,” Benedict said.
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