Utility companies were able to restore power Saturday to more than three-quarters of the Baton Rouge-area customers who lost electricity earlier this week during Tropical Storm Isaac, according to the state Public Service Commission.
“The restoration of power is much quicker than with” previous storms, said PSC Commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge, whose power was restored Friday. Utilities “got more out-of-state workers in earlier … They’re working 16 hours a day.”
Much of the telephone and cable service that was disrupted by the storm also has been restored, according to company officials.
A total of 29,906 customers in East Baton Rouge Parish -- about 15 percent of the 199,172 East Baton Rouge businesses and residences that buy electricity -- were still without power as of 9:30 a.m. Saturday, according to PSC reports.
Ascension Parish reported 3,859 of 48,695 total customers, or 8 percent, were without electricity Saturday morning, according to the PSC.
Livingston Parish showed 18,011 customers, or 30 percent of the 59,888 total, were still without power Saturday morning.
Peggy Lantrip, a consumer specialist in Field’s PSC District 2 Baton Rouge office, said many of the calls she handled Friday came from Baton Rouge-area customers who voiced frustration at seeing power on nearby but not having it themselves.
“This storm is different in that it caused widespread outages,” she said. As the lines were re-energized, a number of pockets scattered throughout area needed more repairs, she said.
“It’s frustrating for people,” Lantrip said.
Field’s PSC District 2 office in Baton Rouge will be open Saturday, and possibly Sunday, to field help customers without power, she said.
Shane Pollet said she showed up at Entergy’s office on Essen Lane looking to tell someone that while many neighbors in the Iberville Terrace had power, she was one of 12 residences still in the dark.
“We can’t reach a human being to talk to,” Pollet said.
The Essen Lane office will open on Saturday and Sunday to allow customers to speak directly to a customer service representative, said Molly Janke, an Entergy spokeswoman. Another customer service office is opening Saturday in Port Allen.
DEMCO spokesman Brent Bradley urged residents to contact the company if they’re the only ones in their neighborhood without power, because it’s indicative that they have a different problem causing the outage.
Despite a day in which most of their customers had their power restored, “we’re not celebratory at this time because we’re focusing on those members who are not back on,” said David Latona, of DEMCO. “Now, it’s the smaller pockets that will take more time to get less people on.”
Sheila Pounders, Entergy’s regional customer service manager, said engineers on Thursday drove the critical feeder lines, finding relatively small issues that could be repaired easily. Hundreds of homes and businesses connected to those critical feeder lines and with no other issues on their lines were restored, she said.
The critical feeders connect to hospitals, emergency responders, sewerage and water.
On Friday, Entergy crews finished the major feeder lines and started working on the smaller lines, Pounders said.
“There are so many of those pockets out there that we’re virtually doing a street-to-street-to-street, fixing individual problems, that’s very time-consuming,” Pounders said.
At its peak, outages affected 903,039 of the state’s 2.1 million customers of regulated utility companies.
As of Friday night, the utility companies reported to the state regulator that 510,695 customers remained without power.
Outages in parishes in southern and eastern sections of state, which suffer continued flooding, are not likely to be repaired as quickly as the Baton Rouge area, according to the PSC.
AT&T reported Friday that about 90 percent of its wireless cell sites were operational after service interruption because of the power outage, said Sue Sperry, AT&T spokeswoman.
About 2,000 workers are repowering the cell sites and nearly all should be back on line before sunrise Saturday, she said.
Flooding in Ascension Parish is the challenge for completely restoring service for EATEL, said Trae Russell. Backup generators restored power to the cell sites but now workers are busy sandbagging to keep out rising water.
On Saturday, the company reported 148 customers without service, out of 28,000 EATEL customers.
Fiber customers without commercial power at their homes can connect their battery backup units to their generators and have their TV, Internet and phone services completely restored. Visit eatel.com/bbu for step-by-step instructions.
Customers also can call (225) 621-4300 or visit www.eatel.com/contact.
And, pertaining to the LSU game:
EATEL’s Prairieville location will stay open until 6 p.m. Saturday to accommodate any customers wanting to pick up a set-top (cable) box to watch the game. The office is located in the Oak Grove Shopping Center, 17188 Airline Highway, Suite D.
Cox Cable reported Saturday it has restored telecommunications services to more than 90 percent of customers in the Baton Rouge market and to 33 percent of our customers in the New Orleans region. The Acadiana region is functioning at full capacity.