FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — The first big storm of the season left some Virginia families shivering for as long as five days in the dark without power. So about the last thing they want to hear is that the storm Sunday into Monday could knock out electricity again. But forecasters say high winds could rattle us one more time.
Dominion Energy crews are gearing up for another round. The company is still getting a handle on how many people it will need, when they'll have to start working and exactly where they should be deployed. But Dominion has already put out a call for help from neighboring power companies.
Lineman trainee Brian Jeter said he lives for storms like this.
"I'm pretty pumped," he said. "I can't wait. I love this time of year."
Dominion says Jan. 3 was among its top five worst storms ever, knocking out power to nearly 500,000 customers.
"It was really cold," said Stafford resident Lisa Chill. “I don't want to experience that again."
Jeter's mentor, lineman Jason George, who has worked through plenty of storms in his 21 years with the company says his strategy is summed up with one word: "focus!"
But the 16-hour shifts were pretty tough on the crews.
"[The] damage level I saw was kind of like a hurricane," George said.
"A lot of us didn't have power in our own homes," Jeter added.
He said just navigating the roads to get to the downed lines was tough. What should have been a five-minute drive could take hours to complete.
"It's just a snowball effect," Jeter said. "You'd clean up one tree, beyond that is more trees, a tractor-trailer in a ditch."
And down every driveway, a family is waiting to get power back.
"You get some people yelling, fist-pumping," Jeter said. "Then you get some people [asking] 'Where you been?'"
Dominion's own meteorologists are warning the howling winds may be coming back, ripping at trees and power lines already weakened by the last round. Crews are checking gear and getting ready to head back out, with a priority list for power restoration.
"Hospitals, nursing homes, Target, Walmart -- anywhere you can get groceries from," Jeter said.
Lineman camaraderie really helps the crews get through a tough winter, Jeter said.
"Stuff like this, you really know who you can depend on," the lineman trainee said.