Where have all the utility trucks gone? Hundreds of trucks from all over the state headed north before Hurricane Hermine hit to prepare for power loss, but their services still remain unrendered, according to some in Tallahassee. Now people in the state’s capital city are still pondering the trucks' whereabouts six days after the storm blasted through the area, leaving nearly 100,000 people without power.
Fallen trees downed power lines, sending most of the city into darkness.
Reviving the city’s electrical grid has happened bit by bit, but some citizens say trucks still have yet to be seen in their neck of the woods -- and they’re starting to get antsy.
In fact, some of those trucks were said to be turned away. Hoards of them -- some from Florida Power and Light, the state’s third largest utility company, which offered to send 575 restoration workers to Tallahassee to help. Duke Energy also offered assistance.
Much of the criticisms about the lack of electricity are focused directly on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum himself, who is rumored to have turned power companies away when they tried to provide much-needed assistance to get the city lights back up and running.
The reason, many said, was because the power companies weren’t unionized -- a criticism Gillum fiercely rejects.
In a Facebook post, Gillum pooh-poohed such comments.
“It appears that the heat has driven some to speculate wildly about what help I have accepted or rejected on behalf of the City in our effort to recuperate from this storm,” he wrote.
“Let me be clear,” he continued. “We are happy to accept any help from any person or organization that is going to accelerate the speed at which we can safely restore power to our residents.”
But Tallahassee residents saw it a little differently.
Even power companies that did send over workers, they said, were left standing around, rendered useless until they were given authority to begin working on downed power lines.
Residents took to social media to post their first-hand accounts of conversations with power crews who had made the journey to come to their rescue, but were left waiting in front of neighborhoods for hours for the go-ahead from the mayor.
“These gentlemen just said to me, ‘I’ve never been in a city where the mayor won’t let us help get power back to the people...we won’t let us work because we’re not union [workers],” said Tallahassee resident Frankie Higginbotham.
The mayor's office rejected those claims. In a response to this article on Thursday, Community Relations Coordinator Jamie Van Pelt said trucks can be working on electrical lines but be out of sight.
"Trucks can be working and they're just a mile away," he explained.
The social media posts read, however with a sense of confusion and overall abandonment, as many of the city recuperates from the storm with full electricity while thousands still go without.
For some, the losses extend far past not having the lights turn on.
“I'm a 22 year old full time student and part time worker,” Kristel Ann Jabbusch commented on Facebook. “Do you know what a ‘couple hundred’ dollars worth of groceries means to someone that supports themselves? It's not the inconvenience, it's a big loss for some of us out here - and I'm sure it's worse for those surviving on welfare.”
The real crisis now exists in the ongoing power struggle throughout the city, both in an electric sense and a political one. Gillum and Gov. Rick Scott, who has spent much of his time in Tallahassee -- even abandoning his trip to Washington, D.C. to address Zika virus concerns -- was critical of the mayor’s handling of the situation and questioned whether the city was utilizing all resources available to speed up the process.
Still, even after power is restored, it’s not certain if residents will soon forget their struggle.
Fewer than 5,000 people were still without power as of Wednesday evening.