SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Proud families welcomed home loved ones Wednesday at the Sacramento airport after 150 PG&E workers from the East Coast.

The workers spent two weeks in New York, where they were assisting with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

It might only have been two weeks, but for these 150 people, it was a life-changing experience.

Most would consider a two-week trip to the Big Apple a vacation, but it wasn’t the type of site-seeing these workers have ever experienced.

“It was very apparent what Mother Nature can do,” PG&E’s Bill Barker said. “Just boats in the street, half a mile in, water levels, you could see fence lines littered with garbage.

The workers left to help an unprecedented problem after millions were left without power after Sandy thrashed the East Coast.

The men and women worked 16-hour days replacing wires, poles and transformers with little time to keep in touch with family back home.

Over the past two weeks they helped restore power to 23,000 homes in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“It was just an eye-opening experience to see how we all came together and worked as a team,” Wendy Johnson said.

But the long days and devastation took a toll.

“I can’t wait to get out of here and get home to my kids,” Jennifer Vargas said.

Andrea Stockton waited impatiently for her husband, Chris, to leave the plane.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “They helped a lot of people. I’m very proud of him.”

Each of the workers returned with a smile but also a sadness for the folks back east still just beginning their recovery.

“I’m sure people have seen what Hurricane Katrina did by the pictures and stuff,” Chris Stockton said. “Just imagine New Orleans with eight million people.

“There’s a town called Rockaway which pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. It’s pretty bad.”

New Yorkers were happy to have the help.

“We get a job and pull up to a street, in Queens or somewhere, and everyone comes out, ‘Thank you so much for coming all the way out from California,'” Chris said.

These aren’t the only workers PG&E sent east; 100 more will be returning Friday.


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