They drove from Detroit. Now they’re bringing Miami’s power back.

Harry Liogghio, who lives outside Detroit, was planning to visit his aunt in Punta Gorda this winter.

He ended up in Florida much sooner than that.

On a hot Friday afternoon, Liogghio was supervising 12 linemen from Detroit-based power company DTE Energy as they brought power back to the Miami neighborhood of Golden Pines. The workers had spent three nights on cots at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, watching Hurricane Irma roll through Saturday and Sunday. Now, they were working 16-hour days, surviving on pizza and subs from Costco. And water. Lots and lots of water.

Liogghio knew he would still be in Florida on Sunday, when he would have celebrated his 23rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Jill, in the Detroit suburb of Clark Lake.

It didn’t matter. His crew was helping a badly damaged community recover. And they were having fun.

“It never gets old in the bucket,” said Liogghio, pointing to a worker high on the arm of a truck as he repaired a power line. “Linemen like to be in the air.”

Liogghio and his crew are part of a massive out-of-state relief effort recruited to turn the lights back on after Irma knocked out power for 6.7 million homes and businesses in Florida, a record. Power companies from 29 states — from Arkansas to California to Massachusetts — sent help. DTE offered 250 trucks to Florida, with 120 linemen driving more than 1,300 miles to Miami-Dade County to fix broken poles and downed wires, according to company spokesman David Lingholm. The trip took three days.

For residents like Vilma Urquiza, the Detroit trucks were a godsend, although they were still working to get the electricity back Friday around 3 p.m. Her house lost power early Sunday. She is recovering from back surgery and ran out of antibiotics after the storm. Piles of branches stacked waist-high lined the streets around her home, along with a junked trampoline left out on the curb.

Urquiza said she passed the sweltering hours “staring at the daylight until it became nighttime.” On Tuesday, her pug, Bea, still spry at 7 years old, passed out from the heat.

“We put her in a tub with cold water and wrapped her in a towel,” she said. Bea recovered.

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, wolfing down a Wendy’s hamburger, was in the neighborhood, too.

When the trucks started rolling into Miami earlier in the week, Russell said, “people were cheering for them … like the boys coming home from war.”

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A crew from DTE Energy of Michigan — Duke Carlos, left, Rich Buko, middle, and Mark Salvatori — lift a telecommunications cable so a Miami resident can park in her driveway. They also restored power Friday to hundreds of homes.


Now, frustration is building as power is slowly brought back to those who suffered without it the longest, Russell said. Residents gathered in Little Haiti Friday afternoon to demand the swift return of their lights and air conditioning. In Homestead, organizers urged farmworkers who are also without power to air their grievances.

In Russell’s district, he said, the dense tree canopy of south Coconut Grove had fallen on power lines and slowed repairs.

FPL says it would return power to South Florida by Sunday. Russell called that a “bold estimate,” based on the damage he’s seen.

“That’s Babe Ruth pointing to the fence and calling his shot,” Russell said.

Peter Robbins, an FPL spokesman, said the utility had 21,500 workers making repairs in its service territory. Roughly 2,000 are FPL employees. The rest are contractors and linemen brought in from around the nation.

The work hasn’t been without costs. One DTE Energy lineman had his foot run over and required immediate surgery, Liogghio said. (The company is investigating the accident.)

Meanwhile, the lights are switching back on.

Asked if she had electricity again, one resident thanked a higher power.

“Lord Jesus,” she exclaimed, “yes, we do.”