CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we at Duke Energy would like to thank everyone affected by superstorm Sandy for their patience, understanding, kindness and generosity as we worked together to recover from the devastation.
Our crews came expecting the worst -- homes destroyed, an electric infrastructure in tatters, flooding, and cold, harsh working conditions. Ten million people in the dark -- $50 billion in damage. When we saw the devastation, our hearts were broken.
However, amid the rubble and devastation, we experienced the warmth of people who expressed their gratitude for our efforts in so many wonderful ways.
There were notes placed on trucks, emails placed on local media websites, hundreds of positive messages sent to Duke Energys Storm Facebook page, offers to pay for workers meals, deliveries of coffee, shouts of encouragement, applause
We were there to help, but received so much in return.
Duke Energy sent roughly 2,900 workers from all of its service territories, assisting 12 different utilities in seven states.
In all, 67,000 utility crew members from across the country joined with the local utilities to mitigate the storms damage. The host utilities did an outstanding job of coordinating the restoration efforts and briefing crews to ensure their safety.
We can prepare for a storm, but when it strikes, its intensity and destruction are unavoidable. The force of nature goes where it chooses. It cannot be controlled by a mayor, governor or CEO. There was no executive order to cause Sandy to cease and desist.
Likewise, it would be impossible for one utilitys personnel to effectively handle the recovery effort. That would mean keeping tens of thousands of linemen and support personnel on the payroll in case a storm hits. The cost to customers would be astronomical.
The mutual assistance agreement among utilities provides the personnel necessary to deal with outages caused by storms like Sandy. Every utility has used the pact at one time or another. Its the most efficient and effective way of dealing with outage events.
With much of the restoration work completed, Duke Energy crews have begun returning home. Its been a long two weeks with little sleep, uncomfortable working conditions and lost family time.
But none of us will forget how people from all parts of the country came together to help repair the damage caused by a once-in-a-lifetime storm -- when strangers worked shoulder-to-shoulder to help others begin rebuilding their homes and their lives.
Whether weathering the pelting wind to reattach wires on a pole or sitting in a dark, dank underground vault rebuilding the grid, each worker carried the thought of a note or gesture of gratitude from the people they were trying to help.
It made the work easier. It made success imperative not just for the restoration of power, but for the reaffirmation of the human spirit demonstrated by all of those affected by the storm.
For Duke Energy and its crews, Thanksgiving came early.