Oklahoma's electric co-ops send help after Hurricane Laura
Photo courtesy of Cimarron Electric Cooperative
1.5 million: Number of people under some sort of evacuation order across the northern Gulf Coast.
More than 910,000: Total number of consumers who lost electricity during the storm.
12 to 21 feet: Peak storm surge based on the National Hurricane Center estimate.
At least 30 people died in the U.S. as a result of Hurricane Laura, including 5 in Texas and 25 in Louisiana.
The storm is estimated to have caused at least $8-$12 billion in damages.
Sources: Center for Disaster Philanthropy & the Washington Post
A collective total of 129 linemen representing 14 member-systems from Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives, at the time this magazine went to press, provided ongoing mutual aid assistance to two electric cooperatives in Louisiana and one electric cooperative in Texas following Hurricane Laura. The record-breaking storm roared onto the Louisiana coastline as a Category 4 storm bringing 150-mph winds and causing destruction in its path. The storm also impacted portions of Texas and Arkansas.
Oklahoma line crews initially provided assistance to Panola-Harrison Electric Cooperative based in Marshall, Texas; and they were later dispatched to assist at Claiborne Electric Cooperative based in Homer, Louisiana, and to Beauregard Electric Cooperative based in DeRidder, Louisiana, where they spent several weeks.
“These cooperatives incurred significant damage to their systems,” says Derec Janaway, director of safety and loss control at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “Some areas experienced tremendous amounts of devastation and required hundreds of linemen consisting of construction crews and rights-of-way crews to turn the lights on again.”
Act of Kindness
Cassie Jeans, member of Beauregard Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BECi) snapped this picture of linemen from Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative when she delivered a home cooked meal to the crew.
Cassie was without electric power due to Hurricane Laura, but she cooked a full meal on her propane burner. Having family roots from Oklahoma, Cassie was filled with gratitude for the hard work of Oklahoma linemen in her community. Her power was restored 19 days after Hurricane Laura hit.
In her words: “In the south we are taught to share what we have and a little more. If we have it, it’s yours too. These men are away from their families trying to help my family. I appreciate them more than they will ever know.”
Janaway’s job coordinating the relief effort became more challenging due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the need to keep linemen lending assistance socially distanced and following health safety protocols.
While some of the linemen stayed in hotel rooms, most lineworkers were in a tent city accommodation designed to protect them from the virus in areas where hotel rooms were not available. The tent city was equipped with HVAC equipment that included special air filters capable of removing 99% of the virus and beds that were spread out farther than normal to safeguard social distancing guidelines.
The cooperatives that sent crews for this effort were: Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Central Rural Electric Cooperative, Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Cotton Electric Cooperative, East Central Electric Cooperative, Kay Electric Cooperative, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Northwestern Electric Cooperative, Red River Valley Rural Electric Association, Rural Electric Cooperative, Southwest Rural Electric Association and Southeastern Electric Cooperative.
The rebuilding and restoration effort in Louisiana is ongoing and is expected to take several months for completion. Oklahoma’s electric co-op crews have been involved in multiple rounds of assistance, typically lasting about 10-12 days at a time.
“Cooperation among cooperatives is one of the principles that guide electric cooperatives,” says Chris Meyers, general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “We are proud of the co-op crews that went out of their way to lend a hand to sister cooperatives. Our prayers continue to go out to everyone impacted by the this record-breaking hurricane.”
Hurricane Delta Update:
Twenty-six lineworkers from Oklahoma's electric cooperatives are among 500 linemen working diligently to restore power to Beauregard Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BECi)'s membership in southwest Louisiana. This cooperative has been hit hard by both Hurricane Laura and shortly after by Hurricane Delta. Linemen on the field are making great headway and enjoying good weather. There are still areas that crews are waiting for water to recede to access damage, but significant progress has been made. As of this morning, Beauregard reports 67% of their membership has power restored; they estimate the restoration effort will last approximately two weeks.