November 17, 2005

Former Memphis Men Helping Bring Power Back To Hurricane Victims

When Rodney Sprague left for Mississippi on August 29th, he never imagined that he and his fellow linemen would still be putting in long hours in the middle of November striving to bring electrical service back to the residents of the storm ravaged south.

Except for a two-week break in mid-October, Sprague and his fellow employees of Kiowa Line Builders have been spending their days and nights in the many areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These workers have restored power from as far north as Meridian, MS, to as far south as Cameron, LA.

After leaving Memphis, Sprague has spent 18 years as a lineman and six years as a crew foreman. He is not the lone local connection to the hurricane recovery efforts. His lead lineman is Perry Shelly, another Memphis native, who worked for the City of Memphis line crew for seven years and spent another 14 seasons with the City of Shelbina.

The men have worked their share of storm recovery efforts in the past, but nothing compares to the total destruction they are currently witnessing.

Working as much as 100 hours per week, the linemen saw firsthand the toll the storms took on the south. When hotels were unavailable, the crews slept in their work trucks or in “tent cities” as Rodney referred to the temporary housing where hundreds of linemen slept on cots just feet apart from each other in large tents. Tent cities came complete with a simple mess hall, washbasin sinks, port-o-potties and a shower trailer.

But, the hardships are made bearable by the atmosphere created by grateful residents in these shattered regions. Sprague and Shelly recount heartwarming tales to their family members back home. They tell of being invited to homes of storm victims for meals and barbecues, of letters and thank you cards from the appreciative residents, most of whom have lost everything.

In Cameron, LA, where the men currently are working, there are security checkpoints set up because of the dangerous conditions. In much of this region, both sides of the roads are lined with debris as tall as the utility trucks they pass by in.

“These men are just another example of people who were raised in this area, and are people that Scotland County can be proud of,” said Tina Ingram, who compiled the information for this article.

Rodney Sprague is the son of Betty Powell and the late “Bud” Sprague. Perry is the son of the late Betty and “Pee-Wee” Shelly all of Memphis. His son Kyle also works for Kiowa Line Builders. The men are scheduled to return home on November 18th.

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