With Hurricane Laura picking up strength and closing in on the Gulf Coast, crews from public power utilities were ramping up mutual aid activities.
The Weather Channel on the afternoon of Aug. 26 reported that Hurricane Laura had rapidly intensified into a Category 4 as it approaches landfall. “Laura will make landfall Wednesday night into early Thursday near the border between Louisiana and Texas,” it said.
FMEA assembles crews
The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) on Aug. 26 reported that it had assembled public power crews from across the state to aid with power restoration efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Laura.
Approximately 25 public power personnel from Tallahassee have already arrived in Lafayette, Louisiana, and another 80 are on their way to assist Lafayette Utilities System, a public power utility, FMEA said.
Crews from Gainesville Regional Utilities, JEA in Jacksonville, the Utilities Commission of New Smyrna Beach, Lakeland Electric, Fort Pierce Utilities Authority and Orlando Utilities Commission were set to depart Wednesday morning and will complete the second leg of their trip to Lafayette on Thursday.
“One of the many advantages of public power is our tightknit nationwide community of professionals who stand together and support fellow public power communities in times of crisis. While emergency response looks different this year as we navigate the pandemic, our top priority is to get the lights back on for those affected by Hurricane Laura as quickly and safely as possible,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director. “Additional precautionary measures and health guidelines in place due to COVID-19 will help crews return home safely to their communities and loved ones.”
Mutual aid crews will undergo routine health screenings, including temperature checks, to confirm they are fit for duty. Additionally, crews will maintain social distancing during daily briefings, in their lodging accommodations and during mealtimes, and will also wear proper PPE.
FMEA serves as the mutual aid coordinator for Florida public power utilities.
Missouri Public Utility Alliance
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, the Missouri Public Utility Alliance reported that municipal utility electric line crews from Missouri communities were on their way to Louisiana and ready to perform recovery work in the wake of Hurricane Laura.
Organized by MPUA, lineworker crews from three Missouri utilities were travelling to Alexandria, La., preparing to respond to power outages after the storm passes. Preparedness coordinators for the City of Alexandria issued a call to MPUA for mutual aid assistance, and the local crews departed for Louisiana the morning of Aug. 25.
The combined response of 13 lineworkers involves crews from the utilities in Hannibal, Harrisonville and Macon. The workers will stage in Alexandria, equipped with five bucket trucks, one digger truck, and three other linework vehicles, ready to restore power to Alexandria’s municipal utility after the storm passes.
MPUA noted that the responding crews are from public power utilities that have agreements in place allowing staff to assist neighboring communities and states during widespread outages in other communities. Utility workers in other states are also on the road to Louisiana locations to assist in hurricane recovery efforts, MPUA noted.
The mutual aid response is coordinated through MPUA’s mutual aid network of 84 utilities. Assisting utilities are reimbursed by the communities receiving assistance.
Nationally, mutual aid agreements like MPUA’s are linked through the American Public Power Association to more than 2,000 public power and rural electric cooperatives, so they can help each other in times of need, MPUA noted.
Texas Public Power Association
Meanwhile, the Texas Public Power Association noted in a tweet that several of its southeast member utilities were in the likely path of the hurricane and were preparing for an intense storm.
TPPA noted that many of its member utilities were prepared to send crews across the state as needed for system restoration.
Those utilities include CPS Energy, Lubbock Power & Light and the City of Garland, Texas.
Denton Municipal Electric, a Texas public power utility, has deployed crews to Lafayette, La.
Georgia public power utilities deployed
The following Georgia public power utilities have deployed to Louisiana:
- West Point
- Crisp Co. Power