A message from the Manager, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the overwhelming support we have been shown in the last three days in the wake of Hurricane Laura. I am astounded by our members, and I want you to know we appreciate you.
I also understand the complaints that have come in about being without electricity. It is hot and humid. Members are uncomfortable and greatly inconvenienced by the lack of electric service. Some believe there are no clear answers to questions related to restoration, adding to the frustration. I do understand. Let me take a moment of your time, not to make excuses but, to explain our dilemma.
In our current situation, we are unable to predict with any degree of accuracy exactly when most of our members will see their service restored. There are numerous reasons why. I’d like to share two.
Despite the fact that even before the storm hit, we brought in more assistance to help us in our restoration efforts, this storm is like no other we have experienced in the history of our cooperative. At no time have we ever suffered Category 1 hurricane force winds for four hours within our cooperative’s territory. At no time in our past have we experienced a storm that so completely covered our territory that, at one point in time, we had more than 98% of our meters without power.
We did plan ahead for this event. We knew the storm was coming and staged 12 full construction line crews here at the cooperative in advance of the storm. We also brought in 4 damage assessment crews to assist. We even brought in additional right-of-way crews to help us deal with clearing fallen trees and limbs. Once the storm was upon us, we made the decision to bring in even more crews to assist. In addition to our own personnel, we now have 20 full line construction crews on the job and another 3 right-of-way crews complete with bucket trucks working in this effort.
Even with the extra help, the going is slow. The damage is widespread and varied. In places it is mostly downed trees with power lines pinned under them. In others, poles and crossarms have been broken and must be replaced. We are making significant progress in bringing lights back to our members. As I write this note to you, we have fewer than 10,000 meters without power. That’s down from more than 23,000 initially. This is an unprecedented event for us.
We are faced with another problem in our restoration efforts, one in which we have absolutely no control. That is, we currently have no transmission service into 5 of our distribution substations. These substations represent more than 8,000 of the meters still without power. Without transmission service into a substation, there is no electricity to distribute to our members.
Entergy controls much of the transmission line in Louisiana, including the transmission lines that deliver power to our substations currently without service. We recognize Entergy was stricken with the same catastrophic weather event the entire state endured. We understand that maintaining and repairing these transmission lines is a monumental task. We still feel we are entitled to ask for these lines to receive priority treatment given the number of families and businesses affected, but we have absolutely no control of how they choose to prioritize their restoration efforts with regard to these lines they own.
We are not alone in our problems in receiving transmission service. They provide this service to most of the utilities affected by Hurricane Laura. We have complained to Entergy. We have filed complaints with our power supplier CLECO Cajun. We have even spoken with state officials regarding our problems. Entergy has been slow to respond, but they are beginning to make some progress.
Under normal circumstances, we would not mention problems we are experiencing with a neighboring utility. However, our members deserve answers to questions as to why it is taking so long to restore our members’ power. The two primary drivers of the time requirement are the unprecedented, damaging nature of the event and delays in receiving transmission service to many of our substations.
The combination of the two factors has made it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately predict when an individual member might receive service. This is the reason we have been reluctant to speculate estimated restoration times when members have called or messaged.
Please know that we are doing everything in our power to restore power to our members as safely and as quickly as possible. Our crews in the field and in the office are working from before 6 a.m. until after dark. Many of them are sleeping in homes that do not have power. They are getting the job done, and we are so appreciative of the patience and understanding of our members.
General Manager & CEO