Winston-Salem, NC -- We all like when things are as easy as 1-2-3. But when it comes to getting power back, utility companies have dozens of steps to follow, hundreds of workers to coordinate and, as is the case up and down the east coast, millions of customers to serve.
It's a tall task, but one utility workers in the Piedmont are familiar with.
"It's just like they say [about how to eat] an elephant: one bite at a time," said Jimmy Flythe, one of Duke Energy's directors for government and community relations. "[We have] a plan that we work. Everybody's got their assignments. It becomes almost a military operation."
Flythe met with WFMY News 2 at the intersection of Ninth Street and Cameron Avenue in Winston-Salem, where crews spent hours repairing lines Monday. Trees fell and knocked out power there early in the morning.
The process those workers went through is just like what hundreds of crews to the north are experiencing. And Flythe says the work starts before the storm.
As trouble approaches, a power company's staff meteorologists will warn that problems could be coming. And once the power goes out, utilities count on customers to call in outages. In Duke's case, its computer system will field all those calls and use the data on where they're coming from to try to predict how far up the grid the issues go.
Then, workers in centers like Duke's Power Delivery Work Center in Greensboro dispatch scouts to assess the damage and determine what type of crew needs to address the problem. That's when those familiar line workers get involved.
But how do they determine which areas get power back first? There is protocol for that.
Flythe says emergency situations get top priority, so things like a live line down in the road will get a crew's attention first. Then hospitals, or places like fire stations and rescue squads that need power to help respond to a crisis, are next on the list.
When the emergencies are taken care of, dispatchers will send crews to fix the problems that get power back to the greatest number of people at once. After the big issues are sorted out, the workers will hit the areas where only a handful of customers are affected.
Sometimes it's easy to feel like power companies are playing favorites when it comes to restoring power, but Flythe says the process is rooted in having the biggest impact first.
Duke Energy has received requests from companies up north to send crews to help restore power there. It's considering the best way to help, but since the weather could get rough here this week, Flythe says the company will likely focus on the home front.