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Six Monticello High School Alumni Respond to Derecho in the Midwest

 

October 8, 2020

Photo courtesy of Whitney Anderson

From left: Andrew Anderson, Chris Babler and Brent Pence. The Monticello High School alumni recently responded to help restore power to several communities in the Midwest.

Powerful storms moved through the Midwest on August 10, causing widespread damage and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of customers in parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Six Monticello High School alumni answered the call of power companies throughout the area that needed help to restore the electrical infrastructure.

Iowa has 30 million acres. The reports of damage in Iowa were more than 10 million acres of crops. There were reports of 120 mile per hour winds for 30 to 40 minutes.

Steve Dilley, class of 1984, is a construction manager with Alliant Energy. He has 34 years of service in the trade, including 10 years as a line tech and now is in line construction management. Steve assisted with the logistics of mobilizing Alliant crews to assist in the restoration.

"The most memorable part of the storm was how thankful and helpful the people in Iowa were, even while being without power for so long," said Steve.

Scott Dilley, class of 1987, is a manager of customer operations and has been with Alliant for 32 years.

"This was the worst storm restoration that I have been a part of," said Scott, and he recalls how nice the people were in Iowa, offering food, water, Gatorade, and anything else in general. "The people did not have electricity to cook their own meals and were thoughtful enough to offer us lineman whatever they could."

Scott was in Iowa for five days working with other Alliant crews from Monroe, Janesville, and Stoughton.

He also didn't realize six linemen from Monticello were out there and added, "That's pretty neat."

Andrew Anderson, class of 2000, is a crew leader at Madison Gas & Electric has 18 years in the trade. He responded to the call on August 11. He and his co-workers worked for four days with Ameron Company in Illinois, and helped get lights on in several small towns that were completely without power.

"We had to patrol power lines from the main feeder to the meter at the houses," explained Anderson.

The team was released and sent to western Iowa for similar tasks and then moved to the Cedar Rapids area. He spent 12 days repairing damage caused by the derecho.

"It was the worst devastation I have seen in my career," said Anderson. "The damage to crops, farm buildings, and houses was incredible."

Anderson added that one night, another Monticello alumni, Matt Babler, and he stayed in the same hotel while they were in Illinois and didn't know it until they met and talked the next day.

Chris Babler, class of 2001, has 17 years in the trade and is a lineman with Alliant Energy. He contracted for 10 years before joining Alliant and has helped after many hurricanes, tornados, and ice storms across the nation. Babler spent four days in Iowa and decided to stay longer when other lineman needed to go home.

Babler also has a family farm and added, "The amount of crop damage was just incredible and pictures I sent back to family and friends don't do it justice, miles and miles of corn fields just leveled."

Brent Pence, class of 2011, has been in the trade for seven years. He worked his apprenticeship with ALBAT in northern Illinois and has recently joined a different contractor in the Green and Dane county area.

Pence responded to Hurricane Isaias from August 3 to 13, and then drove from the east coast to Iowa to help with the Derecho for nine days. He was home for three days and the drove south to assist with the damage from Hurricane Laura for 17 days and recently arrived home.

"It'll be nice to take a break and just be home for a while," said Pence.

Matt Babler, class of 2009, has been in the trade for five years after serving in the Marine Corps for four years.

"There are a lot of similarities between the service and linework, and I enjoy the atmosphere," said Babler. "It was crazy to see the desolated areas in the Midwest that compare to Category 3 and 4 hurricanes."

Babler worked repairing damage from the derecho for 12 days, splitting time between Illinois and Iowa. Babler works in the Denver, Colorado, area and also spends time working with the fire restoration in California. He typically helps with hurricanes and ice storms since the contractor he works with is active in helping with storms.

"We all have many stories and many miles under our belts as lineman traveling this great country to help companies get back to providing electrical service to their customers," said Anderson. "We are all proud to be lineman and proud to come from the strong small community of Monticello."

 
 

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