Local power crews help in Louisiana

Published 10:34 am Thursday, September 10, 2020

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Local linemen from Covington Electric Cooperative and South Alabama Electric Cooperative has spent time helping with a massive power restoration effort following Hurricane Laura’s devastation in south Louisiana.

Covington Electric this week sent its second crew to the area to help assist Beauregard Electric Cooperative.

Both Covington Electric and SAEC have sent crews to help in the aftermath and are both sending additional crews.

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As of Sept. 8, power has been restored to roughly 10,000 of the 43,000 BECI meters with the help of approximately 1,100 line workers and right-of-way crews from multiple states. BECI’s power provider has restored service to half of its 22 substations. Full restoration is expected to take another three weeks, but some areas with heavy damage may wait longer for power to be restored.

CEC Vice President of Operations Bert Champion briefed the CEC crews on what they can expect when they arrive at BECI. “We share information about damage assessments, progress reports, working conditions, hazards, etc.,” said Champion. “Safety is the top priority in these situations and it’s absolutely critical that everyone keep their minds on what they’re doing. They understand the importance of following every standard operating procedure even when thousands of people are without power because those safety protocols are what saves lives. It’s been extremely hot in Louisiana with high humidity, so the working conditions are very uncomfortable. We’re used to that in south Alabama, but there are also a lot of marshy areas in the BECI service area that are not accessible with a bucket truck. These areas are known habitats for snakes and alligators that can potentially be more than a nuisance if you’re not careful. We encourage our workers to always be observant in their surroundings and remember the safety protocols at all times,” said Champion.

The first CEC line crew that headed to BECI included Jacob Qualls, Dustin Hinson, Kevin Anderson, Justin Bracewell, Ronnie Dixon and Brian Lasiter. The second crew heading to Louisiana this Friday includes John Johnson, Melvin Jeffcoat, Jeff Martin, Clark Kilcrease, Russell Mosely, Ross Parker, and Charles Williams.

   “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” has always been the co-op way and the positive impact of this long-standing commitment is never more apparent than during the aftermath of a natural disaster. Louisiana co-ops sent several crews to assist CEC after Hurricane Opal devastated our area in 1995. “When co-ops get knocked down by Mother Nature, we come together in a unified effort to rebuild the grid and restore power to the people. It’s quite remarkable and CEC is very proud to be part of this unique alliance,” added Champion.

Andy Kimbro, manager of member services at SAEC, said that they sent out an eight-man crew on Friday, Aug. 28. Those eight men – Chris Sanders, Blane Senn, Regal Hamm, Corey King, Trey Dillon, Corey Dunsieth, Dylan Mobley and Trevor Littlefied returned on Friday.

A second seven-man team swapped out. Kimbro did not release their names for safety purposes of their families until they return home.

  “Our guys are always willing to answer the call to help our cooperative family.  During the storms back in April of this year we had 150 linemen from other cooperatives assisting us with the restoration efforts to restore power to approximately 12,000 of our members,” he said.  This is part of what we do and our guys welcome any opportunity to return the favor when these devastating storms occur.  The temperatures and humidity has made an extremely tough situation even tougher.  Long days and the absence of our normal living arrangements makes for a task many would shy away from.  But these guys are something special and they meet every challenge head on because it’s just what they do.  The love they have for helping others in times of need is a motivation you can’t quantify.”