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Christmas 1989

The Christmas freeze of 1989 was undoubtably the worst and possibly the most terrifying time of my career. I had been with the power company less than two years and had worked plenty of thunderstorms but nothing like this.

I was walking out a line where we had a neutral down in what looked to be sand on the side of the road. It turned out to be an iced over ditch that held me up just long enough before breaking through to a depth of just over my rubber boots. These were the only boots I owned at the time.

The temperature was in the teens, which is unheard of in central Florida. The diesel trucks would not run hot enough for the heaters to work and I thought I was going to lose my feet to frostbite. I wrapped my feet in rags to substitute for my wet socks and carried on.

We ended up well north on our system where, at 3 am, the temperatures had dropped into the single digits. The dispatcher told us over the radio to get in the trucks to warm up, but our foreman said we would get in the trucks when we got the wire back up and were headed to the next job.

We got the 3-phases of #2 solid copper primary back up and closed in, just to blow some 140-amp fuses, then blow some 200-amp fuses. Boss man said to put some solid doors in. We did and were able to watch the overloaded wire, amazingly, melt back down right before our eyes. How discouraging was that? We put all the melted annealed wire back up. We had to leave the customers off until the temperature warmed up and, hopefully, the demand on the circuit decreased.

About then, I saw the sun coming up and, after this long cold night, the supervisor radioed the foreman and made us come in for some needed rest.

Robert Padgett - Lineman

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