On Day 6 of the ice storm aftermath, PSO reported tremendous progress in its massive effort to restore electricity to all its customers in Tulsa. News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren has again been at PSO's temporary base of operations at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. She reports for the first time since the storm hit, the number of Tulsans without power has dropped below 100,000.
"This was a historic storm for us. We've never seen anything like it," said Stuart Solomon, President of PSO.
The utility says the historic storm damage is getting an historic response. With the help of Tulsa County, PSO has converted the fairgrounds into its operations center, with Fair Meadows as its headquarters. Giant video screens that usually show horse racing now give managers up-to-the minute details on repairs. But, other parts of the fairgrounds are just as important.
"It's a fantastic undertaking. Not just the power restoration, but also the lodging and feeding these folks that are here," said PSO's Mark Butler.
About 6,000 utility workers from 14 states are in Tulsa, with 4,000 of them eating and sleeping at the fairgrounds. To handle all those people, PSO is getting help from a private contractor that specializes in dealing with hurricanes.
With the addition of a few hundred pillows and air mattresses, livestock arenas are now serving as dormitories. A parking lot has become a refueling station for utility trucks. Special trailers make it possible for tired and cold crews to take hot showers. Other trailers make it possible for the men to get their clothes washed in record time. But, the accommodations still don't have all the comforts of home.
"Some of the biggest challenges we've had is getting warm blankets. Obviously sleeping in the cold is not the funnest thing to do, especially if you've been out in the cold for 12, 16 hours working," said PSO's Mark Butler.
PSO says its behind-the-scenes crews will work just as long as it takes the repair crews to finish the job and restore power to everyone.
"You have to have the behind the scenes support or the guys out in the field are not going to be productive at all," added PSO's Mark Butler.
Tulsa County officials say the utility crews are welcome to use the facilities as long as they need. In the meantime, the fairgrounds staff is still preparing for events that are already scheduled, including a 66ers basketball game Saturday night and even the Chili Bowl car racing event next month.