by mark ballard
Capitol news bureau
September 05, 2012
Power was back for almost everyone in the Baton Rouge area, the Louisiana Public Service Commission reported Tuesday night.
Across the state, only those customers in areas suffering extensive flooding remain without electricity, according to the PSC.
Five days after crews started restoring power downed by the state’s fourth-most destructive storm, in terms of outages, all but 2 percent – or 36,290 of the state’s 2.1 million customers of regulated utilities — had electricity, according to the PSC. At the peak Thursday morning, 903,039 utility customers were without power.
“I realize New Orleans and Jefferson are upset. I think they’re going to have investigations,” said PSC Commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge. “But for my district, we got restored very quickly.”
At its peak, Hurricane Gustav in 2008 knocked the power out to 192,332 customers in East Baton Rouge parish, Field said. Hurricane Isaac cut the electricity to 101,632 of East Baton Rouge’s 199,172 utility customers, he said.
As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday only 846 East Baton Rouge customers were without power, Field said.
The winds of Isaac were not as strong, but lasted much longer than Gustav, plus there was more rain and flooding, Field said. In addition to less damage, improvements made after Gustav, such as hardening the transmission system, helped utility crews restore power faster, he said.
Generally, the only customers without power in the Baton Rouge area Tuesday were individuals with problems, such as significant structural damage, that precluded the utility from re-energizing the lines, said Bill Mohl, president and chief executive officer of Entergy Gulf States Louisiana LLC and Entergy Louisiana LLC, which have more than 1 million customers across the state but outside New Orleans.
Some customers may lose power for short periods during the next few days as crews reconfigure lines and repair equipment, he said.
Power was restored to much of Plaquemines Parish by Tuesday, Mohl said. But in areas south of Port Sulphur, repairmen saw their first full day of work Tuesday because of flooding, he said. The repairmen, in many cases, had to drive down levees to access the area, Mohl said.
It may be Sept. 18 before those customers have electricity again, Molly Janke, Entergy’s spokeswoman, said late Tuesday quoting from the utility’s latest progress report.
Entergy customers in Orleans, Jefferson and St. James parishes should be fully restored Wednesday, Janke said. Areas such as LaPlace remain inaccessible to repairmen because of flooding, but the rest of St. John the Baptist Parish should have its power back by Saturday, she said.
Entergy’s customers in Livingston Parish have been restored, except those in parts of Albany and Springfield, who should have power sometime Wednesday, Janke said.
DEMCO has restored electricity to all but 206 of the cooperative utility’s 39,187 customers in Livingston Parish. David Latona said those customers, who live near tributaries of Lake Maurepas, likely will remain without power until floodwaters subside.
Not everyone was happy with the restoration’s efficiency.
Debi Russell, a retired Entergy employee, was among a group of Old Goodwood neighborhood residents who visited Entergy’s customer service office on Essen Lane on Sunday afternoon to complain.
Electricity came back on the neighborhood Sunday night, she said. Her lights were out 13 days during Gustav and 103 hours for Isaac.
“I know how hard people were working,” Russell said, adding that improvements after Gustav helped.
Russell said Entergy agreed to meet with homeowners later this month to talk about options for further improving storm service. One possibility, she said, could be rerouting the power grid for the Old Goodwood neighborhood.
Power for much of the neighborhood comes from a substation behind the old Sears store on Florida Boulevard. The line between structures on South Donmoor Avenue and Kenwood Avenue takes a short jog then crosses Government Street at Audubon Avenue, where the lines travel south past Seven Oaks Avenue to near Jefferson Highway.
Maybe Entergy could connect the neighborhood to a closer substation, Russell said.
“We’re just looking for some alternatives for improving reliability in our area,” Russell said.