Day to day, AEP Ohio forester Steve Wengerd oversees the vegetation management program for the Canton service area, the town he was born and raised in. He manages tree crews as they trim vegetation away from our power lines and equipment to help prevent future outages. Plus, he and his team are responsible for a plan of action if and when there is severe weather in their local community.
When a storm hits our service territory and takes out power, our team responds. Forestry crews are responsible for clearing the way when it comes to downed trees and branches — helping establish the safest route for bucket trucks, so lineworkers can safely get to the power lines and equipment that need to be repaired.
“We all work together to return power and ensure everyone gets home safely,” said Steve. “While our focus is restoration, safety is always the number one priority.”
Away from Home: Helping Our Neighbors in the South
Sometimes those duties cross state lines. This was true for Steve when he volunteered to work storm restoration efforts in Texas after Category 4 Hurricane Harvey devastated the area in 2017. He spent over two weeks on the ground, helping assess the damage caused by the hurricane. He was responsible for assigning jobs and creating a work plan to accomplish the day’s goals.
“Foresters evaluated each job site to help keep the crews and the public safe in and around the work area. After we cleared the vegetation, so that the lineworkers could begin their work, we would talk with the tree crews to keep morale up, go on supply runs if they needed anything, and generally help to keep everyone’s focus on the devastating, but critical, job at hand,” said Steve.
His passion lies within helping those in need, whether it’s in his community or thousands of miles away.
“I was astonished by the sheer amount of people willing to help,” said Steve. “When you step back and look at the humanity aspect of it, and realize that all of these people put their differences aside to help strangers, it’s truly amazing.”
Steve has no doubt that helping restore power for those affected by Hurricane Harvey was one of the most impactful experiences he’s had on the job. “My time in Texas opened my eyes in many ways. In a matter of moments, these people lost everything. It makes you want to be the person that gets the power back on and offers them a semblance of hope amid a sea of disaster.”
Steve and our forestry team work hard each and every day, severe weather or not, to keep the power on. Visit AEPOhio.com/Trees to learn more about the important work they do.
If a Severe Storm Hits, Keep These Tips in Mind
As we approach severe weather season in Ohio, Steve offers a few tips to keep in mind:
- Know help is on the way. Our crews work as fast as they can to restore power after a storm, while also keeping you and themselves safe. Learn more about our damage assessment and restoration process here.
- Watch for updates on AEP Ohio’s social channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and website.
- When you see tree crews working after a storm, stay away to help keep both you and our crews safe.