MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- A dozen Eugene Water & Electric Board linemen flew to New Jersey last Thursday morning to help beleaguered East Coast utility crews restore power following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.

With more than six million people without power, EWEB and other utilities across the nation were asked to help with power restoration efforts.

While EWEB and other Northwest utilities routinely come to one another’s aid following heavy storms, it is uncommon for West Coast crews to travel across the country to help restore power. But with severe natural catastrophes such as Hurricane Sandy, utilities are answering the nationwide call for help.

“The whole concept of mutual aid is critical to the entire utility industry,” said EWEB General Manager Roger Gray. “Sometimes we give the help and sometimes we receive the help. Our customers are better off when utilities support each other.”

When a snowstorm hit the Eugene area last March and caused widespread power outages, for example, Newport-based Central Lincoln PUD sent crews to assist EWEB’s restoration efforts. Likewise, EWEB crews went to Northern California last winter to help restore power following widespread outages.

Before agreeing to send the crews east, EWEB first checked the 10-14 day forecast to be sure no big storms were on the horizon. Other local utilities including Emerald PUD, Lane Electric Cooperative, Blachly-Lane and Springfield Utility Board agreed to help EWEB if unexpected problems occur while the crews are in New Jersey.

“Knowing that our neighbors can help us allows EWEB to commit to help folks on the East Coast,” Gray said. “We all do our part.”

As part of the mutual aid agreement, all costs incurred by the EWEB crews (including labor, overtime, food, transportation, and accommodations) will be reimbursed by the New Jersey utility receiving the help.