When a thunderstorm packing 100 mph winds whipped Wichita, Kansas, on April 3 and knocked out power for more than 70,000 customers of Westar Energy, MYR Group subsidiary Sturgeon Electric Company, Inc. (Sturgeon Electric) quickly deployed crews from Colorado and Kansas to several hard-hit sections, including a 3 1/2-mile stretch along South Webb Road, where the storm snapped utility poles as if they were twigs.
“Every pole was on the ground,” said MYR Group Regional Safety Manager Kevin Martin. “There was wire everywhere. It was a mess.”
Harvey Scott, whose home on South Webb Road lost power during the storm, was stunned by the wreckage.
“I didn’t notice that all the poles were down until I got out here and looked,” Scott said. “All these poles in each direction were laying down across the road. It was unbelievable.”
The job demanded not only quick thinking and careful planning, but solid team-building among Sturgeon Electric crews from two separate locations: the company’s headquarters in Henderson, Colo., and the office in Topeka, Kansas.
Sturgeon Electric opened the Topeka office last year after signing a seven-year contract with Westar Energy, which operates and coordinates 35,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines and serves nearly 700,000 customers in east and east-central Kansas from energy centers that generate more than 7,000 megawatts of electricity;
“We’re in the relationship-building stage with Westar Energy,” said Mark Sterkel, Sturgeon Electric Regional Vice President, Colorado. “Integrating our Colorado and Kansas crews was very important for building and maintaining a safe, productive workforce that acts as one highly effective team.”
The crews immediately got to work, demonstrating professionalism, expertise and teamwork, proven by the speed at which the new poles were erected.
“In one day we set 57 poles,” said Foreman Josh Wanrow. “We had cranes and elevator buckets setting behind us. We had two production diggers ahead of us, and they could barely stay ahead.”
Thanks in large part to the 100-percent support provided to the crews by Westar Energy, the Class II 75’ to 95’ poles had been replaced at three different locations within four days, and the 115 kV transmission lines on the top section and the 13.2kV distribution underbuild had been strung and energized.
“Every time we’ve come to work for Westar, we’ve been treated with great respect; they’ve always taken care of us,” said Wanrow. “Every time you go out on a job, they tell you they will get everything you need to do the job safely.”
Sterkel praised both the support from Westar and the overall performance of the crews as “stellar.”
“The great planning, coordination and execution by all involved goes back to the quality and professional attitude of the employees that were doing the work,” he said. “It was very important to us to provide this service to Westar Energy and their customers, and most important, every employee made it back home to their families and loved ones safe and sound.”