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Transmission Employees Rescue Customer Stranded by Flooding in Corpus Christi

by on July 9, 2018

Transmission Line Mechanic Jonathan Gonzalez (second from left) and Transmission Line Mechanics Carlos Zepeda (far left), Gilbert Silvas (second from right) and Roel Garcia (far right) recently rescued a Corpus Christi resident who was left stranded on the roof of her flooded vehicle as the water continued to rise. Photo by Omar Lopez.

(Story by Larry Jones)

“I was terrified and they saved me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Jennifer McLaughlin’s Facebook post was one of many during the recent extreme rains in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area. Most of the posts focused on service restoration concerns, along with questions regarding outages caused by the rains. McLaughlin’s post (see below) had an even deeper significance. She was trapped on the roof of her car and concerned that her 911 call was not going to be answered soon.

McLaughlin, a Corpus Christi nurse practitioner, was headed home on Tuesday, June 19, when the rain began to result in flooding. That’s when things went from bad to worse.

“It was dark and pouring rain,” she said. “I was behind another car that did not have any problems; so, I thought the water was not that deep. Then, my car died and would not restart, and the water kept getting higher and higher. My car rapidly filled with water; so, I climbed out on to the roof waiting for 911 to send someone. That’s when the AEP truck came to the intersection and maneuvered close enough that they could reach me and take me to higher ground.”

Fortunately, AEP Transmission employees Transmission Line Crew Supervisor Jonathan Gonzalez and Transmission Line Mechanics  Gilbert Silvas, Roel Garcia and Carlos Zepeda already were in the area although preparing to leave. The group had planned an evening clearance outage to complete some transmission project work; however, the rain and subsequent flooding resulted in their canceling those plans.

“We had two large pickup trucks, a bucket truck and a crane to complete the planned work,” Gonzales said. “We were trying to get this equipment out of the area before the flooding got worse. As we were heading out, I noticed that there was a partially submerged Tahoe underneath the overpass, and its vehicle lights were on but flickering.”

The group decided to check the Tahoe to make sure that no passengers were trapped by the flooding. They moved one vehicle closer to get a better view.

“As we got near the overpass, we flashed our lights on the vehicle and noticed that a lady was sitting on top of her Tahoe, and the water was up around the windows,” Gonzalez said.  “We couldn’t even see the hood of the Tahoe.  I am not sure whether she was in a pothole but the back of the vehicle was sitting high and the front seemed low into the water.”

They decided that the safest approach was to drive the larger 4×4 pickup to the Tahoe because that company vehicle had about 1-to-2 feet of clearance above the water level. Once the crew got to the Tahoe, Gonzalez stepped out on the top of the crew truck bins and instructed the customer how he was going to help her off her Tahoe. Once they both were safety back on the top of the truck bins, Garcia put the company truck into reverse and backed the vehicle to the frontage road while Silvas served as a spotter in the cab and Zepeda was stationed on high ground watching and relaying information over his company radio.

Once the group moved to higher ground, they made sure McLaughlin was safe and waited with her until her husband arrived. Police arrived about this time, and the group communicated what happened.

“They were kind, and I was abundantly thankful,” she said about her rescuers. “I’m just glad they were there.”

From → News From AEP

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