OUC linemen prepare a replacement utility pole while working in an Alexandria, La., neighborhood. Photo, Dewey Harvey, Lead Line Tech

Four days after Hurricane Laura’s category 4 winds plowed through central Louisiana and made a mess of virtually everything in its path, the residents of a little piece of Alexandria, La., saw a beacon of hope in an otherwise grim situation.

On Monday (Aug. 31), their lights came back on.

Dewey Harvey, a Lead Line Tech of one of the two five-member crews, estimated OUC’s mutual aid crews reconnected 300 to 400 homes to the grid in one day alone.

“These guys are all steady workers,” he said about his coworkers. “Everyone’s doing a great job. They really care about what they’re doing.”

On Thursday (Aug. 27), OUC dispatched an 11-truck convoy of 11 line techs and a fleet mechanic to Lafayette, La., a two-day drive from Orlando. But while on the second leg of the trip, the team was told to return home because it wouldn’t be needed in Lafayette after all. While making a stop east of Pensacola, the team got word to turn around and head to Alexandria, 90 miles north of its original destination.

Fleet Mechanic Alfred Jones is all smiles as an ice cream truck brings well-deserved desserts to OUC’s mutual aid team. Photo, Dewey Harvey, Lead Line Tech

 Since Saturday, they’ve been working in the field from daybreak to as late as 10 p.m. CDT. While they got feeder lines back up the first day in the field, bringing power to thousands of customers, they have also spent a lot of time clearing felled trees and untangling powerlines from branches. Huge live oaks and towering pine trees used to provide a canopy over homes and the streets they once lined. Now they’re in the streets and on top of homes, creating obstacles to power restoration work.

“It’s a mess up here,” Harvey said of the tree damage to powerlines and homes. “I don’t even know how to put it in words.”

As the mess got cleaned up, OUC’s crews turned their attention to restoring feeder and lateral lines, the latter providing the electrical links to homes.

One by one Monday, residents living on Avenues A, B and C, and Bush Avenue and Hillcrest Drive could close their windows and turn on the A/C.

“People have been so nice,” said Harvey as the sun began to set Monday. “They come out and offer us water. We just had someone pull up in an ice cream truck and they’re giving us ice cream. These are good people.”

The well-deserved desserts followed a meal of spaghetti Alexandria Utility System delivered to OUC’s field crews. Harvey said they’ve been treated very well by the host utility.

Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall said he was “very, very grateful” for the help mutual aid line crews have given his city. “Specifically the Orlando crew,” he added. “They’ve really been doing a great job. We really appreciate them and we appreciate the citizens being very patient and kind to these crews. . . . We take our hats off to the citizens, but we also want to say thanks to Orlando and all of the other electric utility crews that are assisting the City of Alexandria.”

Check in with OUC360 for updates on our mutual aid deployment to assist with power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Laura.

Before our crews reconnect powerlines to homes they often have to clear debris and untangle powerlines from downed tree branches. Photo, Dewey Harvey, Lead Line Tech