• Billy Kortnoy

2020 storm season and the state of the lineman industry

Updated: May 9

What tropical storms and hurricanes kept linemen the busiest during the past year?


As if a global pandemic, presidential election, and murder hornets wasn’t enough to make 2020 an interesting year… we saw a record high in the amount of storm activity battering the gulf and Atlantic coast of the United States this year.


A total of 31 tropical and subtropical depressions, 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes have formed throughout the season.


In August, Tropical Storm Isaias battered the U.S. East Coast with rain and fierce winds after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina. Millions of people were without power for several days after felled trees downed power lines. Dominion North Carolina Power, Duke Energy Carolinas, and Duke Energy Progress were for the most part quick to responds.

In many areas of the countries everyday Americans and their governments have been impressed with the responsiveness of local utility companies and distribution technicians and journeymen on the front lines.


2020-storm-activity
2020 Storm Activity Courtesy of Wikipedia

Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power to over a quarter million 257,000 Con Edison customers as it landed in New York on Aug. 4. Crews scrambled to restore power from trees and branches that fell on power lines, but outages stretched into days for thousands across New York City. Tropical Storm Isaias was the second-largest storm related outage in the utility’s history (only behind Hurricane Sandy). Crews scrambled to restore power from trees and branches that fell on power lines, but outages stretched into days for thousands across New York City. In fact, the outages for some city dwellers in Queens and the Bronx lasted for nearly a week.


One positive trend we tracked in 2020 in utility companies and major employers of lineman across the country are continuing to increase safety precautions for those in the line of fire post hurricane or tropical storm.


During and after a hurricane, utility workers often have to deal with heavy rains and flooding that often cause slippery and hazardous roadways. On top of that, power linemen in Appalachia have to deal with snow and ice, particularly when the remnant of the storm hits some of the higher elevations. Power distribution technicians and apprentice lineman face serious pressure to move quickly to and from downed power lines makes things worse and can result in motor vehicle accidents with severe injuries and fatalities.


a time of lineman work to repair electric lines
Bucket truck team works to repair powerlines

When we tracked the uptick in labor needs during the storm season the usual suspects of contractors such as Duke Energy and Pike Electric Corporation lead the way. However, we also noticed in our data analysis of job posting and storm chatter some smaller companies growing storm rosters and bucket teams. Pinnacle Lineman Company began to consistently be seen across the country this year. The company prides itself on mobilizing around the country within 24 hours to meet the demand of a client when the storm hits.


We also saw an uptick in the hourly wage rates for those working storm response. The survey data conducted in the southeastern states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi is overall encouraging for the industry.

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