Encounters with snakes and alligators plus the relentless heat haven’t made it easy for Alabama Power crews as they continue to assist people in Louisiana still struggling with the after-effects of Hurricane Laura.
As of midday Tuesday, Entergy in Louisiana was reporting more than 84,000 customers still without power in Calcasieu Parish, where the city of Lake Charles took a direct hit Aug. 27 from the powerful storm. Alabama Power crews are hard at work in the Lake Charles area, where the electrical system suffered devastating damage. Entergy officials say the system in southwest Louisiana will ultimately require a “nearly complete rebuild” with damage identified to approximately 1,600 transmission structures, 6,600 poles, 330 miles of distribution wire and nearly 2,900 transformers.
Entergy has yet to announce detailed estimates for when all customers in the region will have power fully restored.
“The heat has been tremendous, with the humidity,” said Trent Weaver, a manager in Power Delivery who is helping lead the Alabama Power restoration teams. He said on the transmission side, there is “tons of devastation” with multiple 500-kilovolt transmission towers “crumpled and torn up.” Substations, too, are badly damaged across the region.
“We’ve done a lot of work in swamps and seen lots of snakes and gators,” Weaver said. He said safety is always a priority, with crew members making sure they stay well-hydrated and everyone watching out for each other.
“Our guys are exceeding expectations,” Weaver said.
He said the local community has expressed its appreciation for the more than 350 Alabama Power team members now working in Lake Charles and their commitment to helping those affected by the storm.
“We’ve had people stop by to thank us, and bring us coolers with drinks and food,” Weaver said.
“They’re just excited to see us here working to help them” – despite, Weaver noted, the differing college football allegiances.
“Some have been LSU fans,” Weaver said. “They tell us they’ll pull for Alabama – at least until the lights are back on.”
Over the past week, Alabama Power crews have helped restore power in east Texas and in northern Louisiana before all the teams converged in the Lake Charles area. They are expected to remain in Louisiana at least through the end of this week.
While Alabama Power crews and support personnel work to get the lights back on in Louisiana, Alabama Power teams at home are also supporting the effort – providing logistics assistance and sending needed materials and supplies, such as transformers, pole hardware and switches, to Entergy.
In all, Entergy reported about 16,000 utility workers on the ground in Louisiana helping restore power to its customers. Utility workers have come from 30 states and from as far away as Maine, Wisconsin and California.
On Tuesday, electricity had been reconnected for approximately 178,000 of the 270,900 Entergy customers who lost power at the peak of the hurricane, nearly two weeks ago.
“There is still plenty of work to be done,” said Wray Anderson, who is helping lead Alabama Power crews in Louisiana, during a conference call with the company’s storm team and Power Delivery leadership. He said crews are “really getting in the groove” after being able to move to housing closer to where they are working, which has cut down on commuting time from distant staging areas.
Officials at Entergy have expressed gratitude for Alabama Power’s help amid the many challenges.
“We appreciate the extensive efforts under challenging conditions by the workers from Alabama Power Company,” said Devrim Albuz, Entergy site manager at the company’s staging site in Beaumont, Texas, where Alabama Power distribution crews stayed for three nights. “We are grateful for your dedication and professionalism. Thank you.”
“Our guys – their spirits are up, morale is high,” Weaver said. “It’s been exciting for them to be able to bring some hope to folks.”
With an active hurricane season still weeks away from ending, Alabama Power customers should always be aware of the potential for severe weather and have their storm-readiness plans in place beforehand. Learn more about how to prepare at www.alabamapower.com. Click on “Our Company” and then “Outages & Storm Center.”