Eastern Kentucky was hit with catastrophic flooding last month, leaving more than 23,000 people without power. To assist with restoration efforts, AEP Ohio sent 24 assessors, 52 lineworkers and two drone teams. Among them was Austin Maxwell, a line crew supervisor from McConnelsville.
AEP Ohio personnel regularly respond to several types of natural disasters, including hurricanes, ice storms and severe wind storms, and though Austin has been with AEP Ohio for almost 14 years, he says the devastation was unlike anything he’d seen.
“I compare it almost to a hurricane. People lost cars, houses, animals, loved ones,” he said. “It was just really bad.”
And there were many challenges in getting the power back on as remote locations, inaccessible roadways and poor cell service combined with rain and extreme heat made for slow progress. Austin described stretches where everything was destroyed by the water that rose to nearly 18 feet in some areas. Whole sections of power line had been destroyed. But, he went on to say, the response was overwhelmingly positive and the local residents were thankful for the help.
“People were so happy to see us, and we were happy to be there,” Austin said. “Even those that lost everything were offering us water and snacks. It was a very humbling experience.”
Despite the many obstacles, Austin and the AEP Ohio crews were able to help restore power to more than 18,000 residents before returning home—a true testament to the power of teamwork and the bond of a community.