Hurricane Laura has tied with the 1856 Last Island hurricane as the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Louisiana. The Category 4 storm caused extensive flooding, damage to electric meters and communications towers and prolonged power outages, knocking out over 100,000 electric meters served by electric cooperatives in three states—Alabama, Louisiana and Texas—according to an article in T&D World. Calcasieu and Cameron parishes were the hardest hit areas.
Due to the extensive damage to transmission infrastructure serving these states, the transmission and distribution systems will require a “complete rebuild,” especially in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, according to a September 14 Entergy Corp. press release. Hurricane Laura caused severe damage to distribution and transmission systems across Louisiana and Texas: Entergy’s assessment found 6,500 damaged poles, 300 miles of downed wires and 2,890 damaged transformers. Entergy expects it will be late September when power is restored to most customers in southwest Louisiana.
At the peak of the crisis, over 616,000 customer outages were reported across Entergy’s service area—which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas—according to an information hub operated by the energy company.
“Hardest hit areas may experience outages for weeks,” Entergy said in a September 8 press release. “In addition, restoration may be hampered by flooding, blocked areas or other obstacles.”
Restoring power to community services including fire, police, hospitals, water and communications is currently the priority, Entergy explained. The company needs to restore power to electrical transmission lines and substations in order to energize the distribution lines that serve businesses and homes. But since these lines are not in service, it will be difficult to move power across the system to its customers in affected areas, it said. Entergy Texas is working with its reliability coordinator, Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc., to ensure safe, stable operation of the electric grid.
The intensity of the storm as well as the COVID-19 precautions that electrical and recovery crews need to follow while they work to restore power might further delay progress, according to Entergy. Additional precautions include social distancing, crews traveling separately when possible, adjusting crew staging locations and increasing the use of drones.
Local contractors and co-op crews, as well as mutual assistance crews from other companies and mutual aid volunteers, have been working since late August to restore power in the areas affected by the catastrophic storm. Restoration workers from 30 states have joined in the effort, such as Florida Power & Light, which is staying in Louisiana to assist with rebuilding Entergy’s grid, and hundreds of relief workers from Tennessee, including 260 lineman and repair workers from electric service contractors and electric cooperatives and crews to help put up power lines and poles.
“The 23,200 workers originally brought in to restore service comprised the largest restoration effort we have ever mobilized,” Entergy said in its press release.
As of September 14, approximately 47,472 Entergy customers were still without power in the parishes of Calcasieu and Cameron, Louisiana; however, 402,794 individual outages in the state had been restored by then, according to a press release. In the cities of Lake Charles and Sulphur, 9,841 poles and 20,760 spans of wire were replaced as of September 13.
“It will be a slow, methodical and controlled process, but customers have our commitment that we will not stop repairing and rebuilding the electric system until every customer who was impacted by the storm has power available to them,” Entergy said.
Hurricane season will continue for another few months. With anticipated impacts from other storms, such as Tropical Storm Beta forecasted to move into the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days, Entergy is preparing for the high winds, heavy rains, high tides and coastal flooding that is expected to impact portions of its territory.