On the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast residents watched as Category 1 Hurricane Isaac bore down on the New Orleans region, evoking memories of the costliest U.S. hurricane disaster on record.
On Aug. 28, Isaac’s strong winds and heavy rains inundated Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and portions of Florida. Entergy, the region’s most affected electric utility, reported the hurricane knocked more than 770,000 of its customers offline. In total, area utilities reported more than 900,000 outages as a result of the storm.
After the storm passed, recovery efforts entered full swing, but fortunately for those in need, the local utilities weren’t alone. The Southeastern Electric Exchange (SEE) is a network of utilities that supports each other for storm restoration. Member utilities stretch from New Mexico to Pennsylvania, and Hurricane Isaac made landfall in the heart of the SEE’s territory. Utilities from as far away as Virginia sent contractors and crews to provide aid.
Embattled local utilities also proved they could rely on each other. After finishing restoration work on its own territory in Northeast Louisiana, Oncor crews headed south to assist Entergy near the Gulf Coast where, on Sept. 3, 240,000 Entergy customers still remained offline.
As was a disaster after the disaster with Hurricane Katrina, floodwaters presented obstacles for restoration teams. Outages could not be addressed until the waters receded, and then water-damaged equipment and wiring had to be replaced. Cleco restored almost 100 percent of its 95,000 customers that were affected, but a handful remained offline for days until crews could safely access the damaged equipment and determine those areas could safely receive electricity again. Entergy reported most of its customers were restored by Sept. 6, but that 1,650 customers remained offline due to flooding and persisting inclement weather.
In terms of outages, Entergy declared it the fourth-most damaging storm in its history, behind Katrina by approximately 300,000 customers. By all accounts, it could have been worse, and the history of the area certainly established such an attitude before the storm even hit. Thankfully, damage costs were nowhere near Katrina levels, power was restored fairly quickly, and relatively few deaths resulted.