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Hundreds here to help restore electrical power

By By MICHELE GERLACH Publisher
Despite the arrival of hundreds of crew members to assist local linemen with the process, no one can give a definitive answer to the question on the minds of many Escambia County residents: "When will we have power?"
Alabama Power had 202,000 customers in its Mobile zone without power in the peak of the storm Thursday. By Friday morning, that number had decreased slightly to 188,839.
No one in Escambia County had electrical service.
Michael Sznajderman, who was fielding media calls from Alabama Power's Birmingham office Friday morning, said the company had crews coming from 14 states to provide help in the relief effort.
He said the company's major goal will be to get transmission lines up, and while the company was not providing precise restoration estimates, it hoped to have power restored to most customers in a week.
Local Alabama Power and Southern Pine officials weren't nearly so optimistic.
Peggie Byrd, who manages the Alabama Power office in Atmore and represented Atmore-Brewton-Monroeville division at a county EMA meeting Friday, said a crew of more than 200 members was moving into Atmore Friday, using the Atmore campus of Jefferson Davis Community College as a staging area. She said the company's first priority in each community would be to provide service to hospitals, water systems and emergency response personnel.
Alabama Power's challenges in restoring electricity were more difficult because the storm also damaged sub-stations. Southern Pine Electric Cooperative had similar problems.
Cooperative manager Jim Byrd said Friday afternoon the cooperative had two substations that were not energized.
A number of the cooperative's relief workers began working at 6 a.m. Friday and others were on the way.
One of the biggest challenges when crews of that size come in is feeding them.
Expecting extensive damage, Byrd had relief crews scheduled before the storm, and hotel rooms, too. Unfortunately, the Days Inn in Atmore, where some of the crews were scheduled to stay, sustained damage and couldn't house the crews.
Southern Pine expected to get some lines energized in the Frisco City area Friday, and possibly the Hwy. 84 and I-65 exit, followed by Hwy. 31 south of Evergreen to Castleberry.
The company's substations in Freemanville, Brewton and Perdido were down, he said.