Local line workers deployed to Florida
News Report Staff
When her daddy is called away for work, Miley likes to snuggle in next to her mom and read a book about linemen and think about her daddy.
Five-year-old Miley Pontious also prays for her daddy, his crew and all of the linemen each night before she goes to sleep.
According to Miley’s mother, Erin Pontious, of Watson, she and her children always know that her husband, Justin “Bubba” Pontious, is on call as a line worker and may have to leave at a moment’s notice.
But that doesn’t make it easier for the small family.
Bubba Pontious was one of the thousands of line workers, including several local linemen, who were deployed to the southeastern states to help restore power for the over 17 million people left without electricity in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The 650-mile-wide storm swiftly moved through the Caribbean Islands and up the heart of Florida, reaching the Sunshine State on Sept.10, then slowly moving through the state and into eight other states before dissipating.
In Florida, 15 million residents were without power following the hurricane, and it is anticipated line workers will remain on site for 30 days or longer restoring power to homes and businesses.
Edgewood resident, Kyle Blair, was called out with his crew the Thursday before Hurricane Irma hit the coast and was stationed in Florida. He sat through the hurricane, in order to be ready to help as soon as the hurricane passed.
Blair was deployed just three weeks after his wedding, leaving his wife, Kayla, to care for their home and property.
“It is really nerve wracking,” said Kayla. “Of course, I am use to him having to leave, but this time was different because I knew he was driving into a hurricane.”
Kayla said her husband sat through the hurricane in a hotel and would send her videos of items flying through the air.
“During the hurricane, I logged out of Facebook because I didn’t want to hear all the horrible stories,” said Kayla, who added she tried to keep herself busy.
One of Kayla’s closest friends and bridesmaids, Traci Hoffman, is also married to a lineman, who was also sent to help restore power in Florida.
Effingham resident, Seth Hoffman, was stationed in Georgia as the hurricane passed, then was sent into Florida to begin repair work with the other crews.
Traci, who is expecting her first child at the end of January, has been married to Seth for a year. The couple’s anniversary was on Sept. 17 but, unfortunately, Seth and Traci will have to wait to celebrate until he returns.
Traci is a little anxious when Seth is away, but she does her best to keep busy.
“I feel like it just goes with the job and the territory. I am incredibly proud of him, and I support all of his career choices,” she said. “I keep myself busy, and I have a really good support system of family and friends.”
Traci admits that sometimes it can be difficult, but she knows Seth will be home as soon he can.
“You just know you have to make sacrifices that sometimes don’t always feel fair, but you deal with it because it’s their job and you’re proud of them,” said Traci. “You know they don’t like leaving their family behind any more than you like them leaving.”
Traci added it gives her comfort to know her husband is surrounded by his crew.
“I know he is with his ‘lineman family,’ and I know that they look out for each other,” she said.
Because Traci and Kayla are close friends, they spend time together and are there to support each other while their husbands are away.
“Kayla and I hang out a lot since we are in the same boat right now and can connect,” said Traci. “We both like to stay busy, so we try to help each other out the best we can.”
Erin Pontious keeps busy with her children, Miley and Colby, 12, which is Bubba’s stepson. The family is busy with extracurricular activities and sports, along with caring for their animals.
Erin also is part of a lineman’s wife group, which her husband jokingly calls “drama mamas.”
“They are very supportive and understand this life is filled with dangers, worries and loneliness,” said Erin of the group. “These women pull together and go out of their way for one another.”
Because their husbands are working 16-hour days, the wives are never sure when their husbands will call to check in and to give them updates.
“I am always wanting to text and call, but I also don’t want to interfere with his work. I know that he will call us when we can,” said Erin.
With phone service being questionable throughout Florida, Kayla said staying in touch by phone hasn’t been easy.
“This trip has been pretty rough because phone service has been down,” said Kayla. “We are pretty much out of touch, especially in his position because he is actually out working on the lines.”
Traci tries to stay positive while waiting to hear from Seth, adding she gets butterflies waiting for his call, just like when they were dating.
“I can’t wait to see that text or see his name on my phone when he’s calling. I light up. It just makes you appreciate each other more and love each other more,” she said, adding that Seth always ends the calls saying how much he loves her and their baby girl, who they plan to name Peyton.
All three wives knew it would be difficult being a lineman’s wife and knew what they were signing up for when they married a lineman.
“I knew going into it that you can’t choose who you fall in love with. You just put your heart on the line every day,” said Erin. “It is tough, especially for Miley, because she is a big daddy’s girl.”
“We have to be ok with them being called out and leaving on a moment’s notice,” said Traci, adding this will be the longest Seth has been called away.
With only being married for a few weeks, Kayla does wish the call would have come later.
“He gets called out several times a year, whether it be for hurricanes, tornadoes or ice storms,” said Kayla. “I went into this relationship knowing that there will be times I could go without seeing him for months on end. It just came a little sooner after the marriage than we would have liked.”
Although they cannot be certain when their husbands will return, they are certain that their husbands are heroes in their eyes.
“To me, my husband is a hero because he sacrifices so much to help others,” said Pontious, who added linemen are trained in First Air and as first responders. “He risks his life every day, all while missing important things such as his child’s firsts, games, holidays, birthdays, vacations, and so on.”
Traci and Kayla are also very proud of their husbands.
“I am beyond proud,” said Kayla “He is not one to brag about himself or about what he does. He leaves work at work. He puts his life out on the line for people that he doesn’t know. He purposely drives into hurricanes and ice storms to help restore power.”
Erin added linemen risk their lives on the job, and do it without expecting praise and recognition.
“These men rush straight into the storm while others are running away. These men are brave, and I am proud to be a line wife,” said Erin.