Hurricane Laura made landfall Aug. 27 as a category 4 storm and caused widespread damage to western Louisiana and eastern Texas. The storm caused massive damage to electric transmission structures and caused a system-wide outage that knocked out electricity to more than 1 million people.
In true cooperative fashion, Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives made arrangements even before Laura made landfall to help restore power after the storm. More than 175 men – mostly linemen, but also mechanics and warehousemen – from 14 Alabama cooperatives drove to Louisiana with needed equipment as soon as the storm passed and set to work.
The Alabama co-ops traveled to Beauregard Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BECi) based in DeRidder, Louisiana, to join more than 1,000 linemen to restore power to the co-op. All 43,000 members were without power; the co-op had more than 5,000 broken poles on its system.
Safety is always the top priority in any restoration effort, so several members of the safety staff of the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA) went to Louisiana to help the crews work safe and stay healthy. (AREA publishes Alabama Living.)
For the crews, the 16-hour days are long, the weather is hot and humid and the work is difficult. But restoring electricity to people who have not had it for weeks lifts the crews’ spirits, as do the expressions of gratitude – sometimes hand-written cards, or snacks or water – they receive from thankful residents.
The crews were still working in Louisiana when Hurricane Sally formed and strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico, with a path that directly impacted Mississippi and Alabama. The Alabama cooperatives brought their crews back to the state to be ready to respond to outages caused by Sally. BECi completely understood the need for the crews to prepare to help their own members and was grateful for their assistance.
As this issue was going to press, co-ops in southwest Alabama had requested help as Sally was set to make landfall, and several crews coming back from Louisiana volunteered to help those co-ops before heading back to their homes in other parts of the state. We’ll have more on the response to Hurricane Sally in the November issue of Alabama Living.