Two Sierra Pacific workers head to Florida |

Two Sierra Pacific workers head to Florida

Becky Bosshart
Sierra Pacific Power journeyman linemen Aaron Coulson, left, and Paul Franolich are on their way to Florida to help restore power to more than 1 million hurricane victims. Cathleen Allison Nevada Appeal

Two Sierra Pacific Power Co. linemen left Carson City early this morning to help turn the lights back on in Florida after a devastating hurricane season.

Paul Franolich, 40, said Monday he is looking forward to helping out north Florida residents. His girlfriend is worried about him, but Franolich said danger is part of this job; especially when he heads to an area battered by a natural disaster.

“I kind of like helping other people and I feel good about being in a position where my trade skills are needed,” he said.

Franolich, a lineman for 22 years, is expecting long hours, inconvenient situations and little rest. Aaron Coulson is the other lineman from Carson City who is part of the 11-man team from Northern Nevada. They will put up power poles and attach lines.

Brian Costello, supervisor of electric operations in Reno, is in charge of the two crews. He said this is the most intensive mobilization effort he has ever seen connected to a natural disaster.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been on anything of this magnitude,” he said.

Power company spokesman Karl Walquist said the company received a service request from Progress Energy, which is the electric utility for northern Florida.

“We agreed to send two line crews, which is a total of 11 people going,” he said.

The team includes the supervisor, a mechanic and four line trucks. The trucks were sent out on Sunday. Walquist said the crews will be there for about 10 days.

Sierra Pacific has a mutual-aid agreement with other utilities in case of disasters, he said. The damage wrought by four hurricanes across Florida is too much for one or two power companies to handle. Progress Energy will reimburse all the crews for their time, travel and equipment, Walquist said.

“There is a real need because so much damage was done and so many people are out of power,” he said. “This kind of effort is needed to get everybody back in service.”

Craig Pinneo, manager of electric operations, said he received the request on Friday morning for 4,500 linemen, which quickly increased to 6,000, and 4,000 tree trimmers. He said more than 250 utility companies from across the U.S. are responding to the call.

Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.