Hours before the worst of Hurricane Dorian was to hit, there was no more happening location locally than Godwin Manufacturing in Dunn.
There were 650 trucks – linemen, groundsmen, tree removers and others – all contractors with Duke Energy all on site. Most trucks had multi-member crews. South River Electric Membership Corporation, headquartered in Dunn, was using the grounds as a staging area as well. And these contractors from Duke were from everywhere – from Canada to Missouri.
Many were heading to Florida and South Carolina, but when it was realized North Carolina was going to get Dorian’s wrath in the United States, the men were diverted to Dunn.
Pat Godwin Sr., owner of Godwin Manufacturing, as well as other companies in several other states, had been allowing the use of his property for years, and free of charge. But this was the largest operation on his property he had seen, he said.
Ryan Godwin, general manager for Godwin, said the operation went up overnight. In a large center tent folks were being fed hearty meals. Ice was being delivered by the pallets. Some of the supervisors were living on site in large motor homes.
“There’s people from everywhere,” said Shane Martin, a groundsman from New York. “We went to Rock Hill, South Carolina, and then they sent us here.”
Dennis Stymiest, one of many linemen from New Brunswick, Canada, was helping himself to a big breakfast Thursday morning. He and the others with him had spent the night in Fayetteville and tour buses brought them in to Dunn. He said they’d be in North Carolina “as long as it takes.”
Mark Crandlemire, with the same company as Stymiest, Tri-Wire, said they follow storms wherever it takes, usually snowstorms in the northeast portion of the United States.
“We’re just glad to help,” he said.
Jason Steeves, a supervisor with Tri-Wire, said he brought in 114 people.
“We started to go to Florida, and we got turned around,” he said. “We’ve been on the road since last Thursday. Today we’re going to hunker down here and then make decisions.”
He was a first time Tarheel visitor. “I’ve driven by (North Carolina), but we’ve never worked in North Carolina before.”
“We’ll probably be here until Friday or Saturday if I was a betting man,” Steeves said.
And Steeves has seen some action including Hurricanes Katrina, Dennis, Wilma and Floyd to name a few of the probably 50 he’s worked.
Tony Honeycutt, an employee of Duke Energy, was refilling a cooler with ice. He said Duke was giving the contractors safety briefings.
“We all stayed in Fayetteville,” he said. “This is the first time I have been here (at Godwin).”
Godwin said he always has everything cleared out in preparation for the workers.
“I want to help the local community,” he said of offering his location free of charge.
Taylor said Tom Underhill at Duke first contacted him Sunday evening about using the location.
“We had to move everything, trucks, chassis, our vehicles,” he said. Later South River asked to use the location as well.
“It’s the most I’ve seen,” he said of the sheer volume of trucks and people on site.
Not because of the staging area, but for other reasons, Godwin Manufacturing was closed Thursday. Taylor said many of the employees were from Sampson and Robeson counties where the storm was going to be worse, plus schools were closed.
“Better to call off today and let them focus on getting ready,” he said.
Plus, moving sheets of steel in 30 to 40 mph weather is dangerous.
Taylor was on site Thursday using the best of his time with almost no one else around. He was impressed with how the Duke operation came together.
He said the makeshift city went up quickly. “And it happens just like that, it’s amazing how fast it happens.”