A Lincoln utility crew will leave the Florida Panhandle for the central part of the state to continue helping restore power following Hurricane Irma.

The crew, which had been working in Tallahassee since Monday, plans to leave for Ocala, about 170 miles south, on Thursday, said Lincoln Electric System spokeswoman Rachel Barth. 

Irma left an estimated 7 million homes and businesses without electricity in Florida.

The LES crew along with utility workers from Omaha Public Power District, Nebraska Public Power District and power districts in Columbus and Grand Island went to Florida to provide assistance.

Tammy Manning, a grandmother from Tallahassee, emailed the Journal Star to publicly thank the LES team for restoring her power after she spent 36 hours in the dark. The strangers from Nebraska "went above and beyond" to help her after she mentioned her outage on a Facebook page.

Manning's hopes of having power restored weren't high Tuesday when Tallahassee utility workers told her a transformer was blown and wouldn't be a quick fix. 

Home with her grandchildren, Manning's mind wandered back to 2016, when Hurricane Hermine downed power lines there and kept her home in the dark for seven days, she said. 

The LES crew, led by Tyler Nixon, surprised her that afternoon and asked for her by name when they stopped by to ensure her home got back online.

The crew happened to have a transformer on hand and worked for about an hour to get power up and running again, Manning said.

"They were very much appreciated, and then they just went about their business helping someone else," Manning said.

Meanwhile, Nebraska's urban search and rescue task force is headed home from Florida after emergency managers there determined the group's help is no longer needed.

The 80-member team from Nebraska Task Force 1 — which includes firefighters, doctors, structural engineers and heavy rigging specialists from Lincoln, Omaha and Papillion — began its two-day trip back to Lincoln on Wednesday morning, according to a news release.

For now, Task Force Chief Brad Thavenet will remain at Florida's state emergency operations center in Tallahassee as a liaison between state and federal officials.

Eight federally designated urban search and rescue teams will continue to work in Florida, mostly in the Key West area. 

Nebraska Task Force 1 deployed to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida late last week.

For 35 members of the task force, the trip marked their second deployment in two weeks, and orders to head to Florida came two days after they returned from Hurricane Harvey relief missions in Houston.

The team's boats helped evacuate hundreds of people stranded by record flooding in the Houston area.

The back-to-back deployments are a first for the specialized team, officials have said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsors the Lincoln-based task force, paying for the work of its members and equipment as well as compensating the departments they leave for the overtime hours used to fill vacancies.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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