BR power outage makes some dine by cellphone light

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When Hello Sushi on Highland Road went dark Wednesday night, customers turned on the flashlights on their cellphones, propped them up on their tables or booths and continued their meals by artificial candlelight.

“Everybody just kind of rolled with it. Everyone was just super cool. Nobody freaked out or panicked,” manager Hera Gavin said.

When Entergy Corp. suffered the power outage, the restaurant was packed.

Hello Sushi’s staff opened the back doors so smoke from the grills could escape, since the electric fans in the hoods were no longer operating.

The restaurant has candles in stock, but by the time Gavin assessed the situation and went to grab the candles, the power had been restored. The blackout for Hello Sushi lasted about 10 minutes, if that long.

Entergy spokesman Will Johnson said three events contributed to the outage that struck three sizable areas of Baton Rouge:

  • First, a generator supplying power to the Baton Rouge area failed.
  • That caused some breakers to fail, interrupting power to a major, high-voltage transmission line.

This is the type of larger line one might see along an interstate. The lines carry power from transmission station to transmission station and are much larger than the distribution lines that supply the power to homes and neighborhoods.

  • Meanwhile, Entergy’s spring maintenance was underway. The company does the preventive work, which includes preparing for hurricane season, in the spring when temperatures are cooler and demand for power is lower.

The maintenance work required taking a number of transmission lines out of service, which made it difficult for Entergy to redirect power when the major transmission line was affected.

That’s why some people’s electricity took a couple of hours to restore, Johnson said. Still, the company accomplished this pretty quickly, he said.

At Alexander’s Highland Market on Highland Road near Interstate 10, the blackout didn’t last long because the grocery store has a backup generator. It kicked on shortly after the power failed, store manager Dustin Mayeux said.

The power outage didn’t really affect anything there.

Others were not as lucky.

The power was out for about two hours at the Bellemont Victoria Apartments on Victoria Drive off Airline Highway, according to Evelyn Pate, assistant manager.

“Everybody had to stop what they were doing to come outside and see what was going on. Everybody was hot, of course,” Pate said.

The apartment complex has 195 units, but hardly anyone complained, Pate said. People came outside to talk and enjoy each other’s company.

Johnson said the Entergy generator is being repaired. With other work done Wednesday, the company doesn’t expect another outage, he added.

Close to 30,000 Entergy customers in the area lost power around 8 p.m.. Some customers were without electricity for close to 2½ hours.

In addition, about 700 Demco customers in the northwest part of East Baton Rouge Parish and some in East Feliciana Parish also lost power because of Entergy’s transmission issues.

Demco was able to restore power to its customers within an hour by switching them to a different substation, spokesman David Lantona said.

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle said his office received two complaints about the outage.

Angelle said he is asking Entergy for additional details relating to the high-voltage transmission line and whether the equipment failure and power interruption could have been prevented.

“Has this happened before? What are the issues around that so that we can try to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Angelle said.