OUC line tech repairs damage to powerlines in Lafayette, La.

OUC Line Supervisor Brent Lowery didn’t exactly know where he and his crew of linemen were working Thursday (Oct. 15) in southwest Louisiana while restoring power Hurricane Delta had knocked out a week earlier. Location really doesn’t matter when every place they’re sent looks the same fallen trees, broken utility poles, downed powerlines and darkened homes and businesses.

The 13-member OUC mutual aid deployment team began on Saturday (Oct. 10) helping Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) repair its grid, an assignment that lasted only four days. On Wednesday (Oct. 14), the crew joined Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership Co-Op (SLEMCO) recovery operation eight miles north of Lafayette. SLEMCO reported catastrophic damage in Delta’s wake, with 98,000 customers without power.

“I was kind of surprised that Lafayette wasn’t in worse shape, considering it had been hit by two hurricanes in only six weeks,” said Lowery, referring to Hurricanes Laura and Delta. “As soon as we were released by Lafayette, SLEMCO asked for our help. The damage has been more severe to their service area, and they’ve got 300 contractors helping them restore power.”

On the first day of assisting SLEMCO, Lowery and his crew got a taste of Cajun hospitality. As they were wrapping up for the evening, a man delivered 13 po’ boy sandwiches to the crew to show his appreciation for restoring power to his air conditioning sales and service business.

Another local gave Lowery bottles of Camp Dog Cajun seasoning and hot sauce as a thank you for his crew’s efforts.

“I never really liked spicy food, but I like it now,” he said. “People are really nice here. They bring us drinks and candy; they really appreciate us.”

The Delta storm team’s experience in Louisiana mirrors the neighborly treatment another OUC mutual aid crew received in Alexandria and Winnfield back in August and early September. That deployment, in response to Laura, was the first of three over a six-week span, a record for OUC. Between Laura and Delta, OUC, on Sept. 16, sent a 12-member crew to Fairhope, Ala., to help the small city recover from Hurricane Sally, which had knocked out power to 22,000 residents.

A 33-year veteran of line work, Lowery, like the line supervisors on the previous mutual aid trips, had nothing but high praise for his crew’s work ethic.

“These guys are top notch. They make me proud to work at OUC,” he said. “They work hard, never quit, never say no. They do whatever needs to be done to get the lights back on.”

On Friday (Oct. 16) morning, Lowery’s team got the good news that it could head home.

“We are extremely grateful for Orlando’s response to our needs.  Everyone did a great job,” said Karen Rutland, Contract Administrator for SLEMCO.