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Chester County Press

Editorial: Angels in emergencies

08/22/2023 03:55PM ● By Richard Gaw

On Aug. 7, late in the afternoon, a severe storm ripped its way through southern Chester County with an assault so furious and straight-line terrifying that it stopped commuters along county roads and highways, closed businesses, shut down traffic signals, cancelled events and brought a crashing halt to everyday normalcy. Within minutes after the storm subsided, home generators began humming their quiet chorus, signifying that power was out from Kennett Square to Oxford and everywhere in between. By Tuesday morning, Aug. 8, PECO reported that strong winds and heavy rains had led to power outages to 27,000 customers in Chester County alone.

The reason behind these outages was simple: power lines had been obliterated by hundreds of fallen trees and left suspended across roads, tangled in the brush of leaves and limbs. Road closure signs began to blink furiously, leading drivers to invent new methods of getting home. In all of the debris and chaos, signs of hope began to emerge in the form of men and women arriving at these scenes in yellow reflective jackets. They waited patiently for PECO to handle the downed power lines and once completed, they went to work in complete collaboration with local fire departments and police units, clearing roads of tree limbs and trunks and debris as the sun fell and night came.

Hours later, as most of southern Chester County slept, they were still there in near darkness, illuminated by rigged-up lights, cleaning and clearing, and by the next morning – to the degree that it could – the business of southern Chester County began moving again.

Together, they returned the rest of us to normalcy, and not many of us even know their names.

Throughout our many municipalities, the members of our public works departments toil in the humble servitude of maintenance and repair – paving and fixing our roads, salting down our wintery streets and then snowplowing them, chipping mulch and trimming roadside trees. They do not take center stage at public meetings, except to give monthly reports. They do not advertise their efficiency and do not self-promote their progress. It is ironic to note that it is their quiet and proficient excellence that too often renders them invisible to the residents they serve, and yet it is during our most challenging moments when severe weather wreaks havoc on our routines that they become angels in emergencies.

It would not be too forthcoming for us – the beneficiaries of the public works staff in our respective municipalities – to thank them for their dedication and their service.