OUC line techs on Saturday (Aug. 29) worked on rebuilding utility infrastructure and restoring feeder lines in Alexandria, La. Photo, Dewey Harvey, Lead Line Tech
OUC’s Hurricane Laura mutual aid team never made it to Lafayette, La., to help restore power and instead was diverted to Alexandria, 90 miles north of its original destination.
But not before the 11-truck convoy with 11 line techs and a fleet mechanic had turned around Friday, the second leg of the trip, and began the long drive back to Orlando.
“We were in Gulfport, Miss., when we got word to head back,” said Jeff Cockcroft, Lead Line Tech of one of the two five-member crews. He said they were informed Lafayette Utility System had a handle on power restoration work and wouldn’t need OUC’s assistance. “The guys were very frustrated when they got the news we wouldn’t be helping out,” he said. “You see in the media that almost a million people are without power and then you see trucks heading west and we’re heading east . . . . That was a little disheartening.”
Spencer Barnes (right), Line Supervisor, administers a temperature check on Matt Coakley, Line Tech II, as the crews prepare to go into the field Saturday in Alexandria. Barnes starts each day with this COVID-19 precaution. Photo, Jeff Crockcroft, Lead Line Tech
The convoy was rolling along eastbound Interstate 10 when a truck broke down, forcing all vehicles to stop in Niceville, east of Pensacola. While Fleet Mechanic Alfred Jones made the necessary repairs Cockcroft said the team was told Alexandria Utility Service could use OUC’s help. The convoy turned around and headed back toward Louisiana, arriving in Alexandria past midnight.
“Everybody’s spirits picked back up when we heard we were going to Alexandria,” said Cockcroft. “It was a long day on the road, but we were glad everything turned out the way it did.”
In Alexandria, OUC mutual aid crew members spent the night in a municipal building, where they were furnished air mattresses and meals, and could take showers. The following day, Aug. 29, they found accommodations at a local hotel.
Cockcroft said he saw giant pine trees, the size of which he had never seen, strewn everywhere ― across roads and powerlines, on top of roofs, and literally into and through homes.
“Right now we are putting up infrastructure like the feeder lines, then we’ll go back later and work on restoring service up to the weatherheads,” he said on Sunday (Aug. 30). “It’s extremely hot and you have to keep an eye on everyone to make sure they’re staying hydrated. Everyone is working hard and we’re making good headway on restoring power to people.”
Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey W. Hall said as much, too, issuing the following statement on Sunday: “I think we’re finally starting to turn the corner. We have all of the main utility circuits back online, roughly 82 percent of our electric customers have service and our water system is nearing a full recovery. My heart goes out to those residents who are still without power, and I want you to know we are working as quickly as we can to get your service restored. Laura dealt a devastating blow to our distribution system, but I assure you we won’t stop working until every line is repaired and services are fully restored to everyone who can take power.”
Alexandria Utility Director Michael Marcotte confirmed that all 57 of the city’s main electrical circuits are restored, restoring service to more than 20,000 customers and leaving roughly 4,600 still waiting for restoration. “We have the main corridors restored and now we are working to address issues with smaller circuits and lines that serve parts of streets and individual homes,” he said.
Check in with OUC360 for updates on our mutual aid deployment to assist with power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Laura.
OUC line crew, including Fleet Mechanic Alfred Jones (center), clear downed trees and work on overhead lines in downtown Alexandria on Monday (Aug. 31). Photo, Jeff Cockcroft, Lead Line Tech