For more than 30 years Rey Fontanez Jr. has been committed to providing reliable energy to his community and the rest of the country.
He’s missed holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. He’s even left a family vacation early to help restore a community’s power. It’s all part of being a lineworker in charge, and he understands that unconditionally.
“I’ve been all over Michigan and the country – Florida, New York and Kentucky, you name the state,” said Fontanez, who works out of West Kent Service Center in Kent County. “Wherever there has been a major storm that’s knocked out power, I’ve joined my co-workers for people who’ve needed us. It’s part of the job.”
Mid-December was the latest storm where Fontanez and his co-workers answered the call. The windstorm crept across Michigan with gusts of 65 to 75 miles per hour.
“It wasn’t anything that we haven’t seen or dealt with before,” Fontanez said. “Don’t get me wrong, it was up there with one of the worst I’ve seen, but I always have confidence that we can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at us. It’s what we do.”
The December storm intensified over a two-day period, bringing down 2,400 lines and knocking out power to more than 198,000 customers. The Consumers Energy team sent a call for help for the more than 200 crews already on the job. An additional 250 crews from Canada, Ohio and Indiana provided some much-needed support to restore broken poles and downed wires.
The crews rotated 16-hour shifts over a four-day period. This came on the heels of Consumers Energy crews working overtime on reliability projects the previous eight weeks. Fontanez helped with those as well.
His main focus during the December storm was replacing broken poles in the Grand Rapids area. He steadily worked between periods of heavy wind gusts.
“The wind was really brutal in spurts,” he said. “You could work for a half hour, then had to come back down for a bit when it was unsafe to be up in the bucket truck.”
Fontanez said he is thankful for his role in restoring power in his community, state and around the country when needed.
“I take great pride in getting the lights back on for my family, friends and neighbors. Even in the toughest of circumstances,” he said. “No matter if it’s in wind, rain, sleet or snow —we are always ready to go at a moment’s notice. And I promise you that we’ll be ready for the next one.”