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Avista crews head south to help with Irma damage

Avista Utilities is sending 18 people and 15 vehicles to Macon, Georgia, to help turn the lights on after Tropical Storm Irma plowed through that area.

The Spokane-based utility got a request for help from Georgia Power through the Western Region Mutual Assistance Group, Avista spokesman David Vowels said Monday.

The crews from Spokane and Coeur d’Alene left Sunday morning for what is expected to be a four- to five-day drive across country. There’s no estimate yet of how long they will be gone, Vowels said.

“There’s a lot of things that are unknown,” he added.

There are seven such assistance groups for private utilities around the country. Avista has received help from other utilities through the groups in the past, most recently during the severe windstorm in 2015, Vowels said.

Inland Power and Light Company has offered to send a crew through a separate group, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and is awaiting word on whether they will be needed, a spokeswoman said.