After Ida, a tent city is raised in battle to restore power

By Rebecca Santa

September 24, 2021 GMT

Amelia, La. (AP) – When Hurricane Ida erupted in the Gulf of Mexico, the grass was high and the warehouse was empty in southeastern Louisiana. Within a few days, the electric authorities turned it into a “tent town” to renovate a giant, air-conditioned tent for workers, a bucket for gravel trucks, and a regional powerhouse.

Following the hurricanes, one of the most common and comforting sites is the thousands of electricians who enter the affected area when the winds die to restore normalcy and stability. They have to sleep somewhere. They need to eat. Their trucks need fuel. They need wires, ties and poles. And occasionally they need cigarettes. Power supplies to build such tent cities to meet those needs.

“There are three things a person in line wants – good food, a cool bed, a hot shower. Those three can work if they can get it, ”said Matthew Peters, executive manager of the South Louisiana Electric Cooperative, who built a tent town for about 1,100 workers to help restore energy to its customers.

When Ida arrived on the beach on August 29, she knocked on the door of about 1.1 million customers in the state. The vast majority have seen their power renewed, but at the sign of the magnitude of the storm, thousands are still in darkness, with downward lines being repaired and partitions being repaired.

SLECA provides electricity to 21,000 customers, including many in the most difficult bio-regions. Cooperative General Manager Joe Titcheli said power has returned to about 81% of its coverage area. After fears that full power recovery could take months, speculation could now rise next week, Ticelli said.

Within a few days, SLECA and the consulting firm relocated the former McDemert International Center to a temporary residence for workers from across the country. Ticily appointed a mayor to make things work out.

Hundreds of beds were set up in a huge white tent; Experienced workers bring their own flexible mattresses. Another tent has a cafeteria that offers fresh breakfast, dinner and box lunch at 5 p.m. Many buckets of trucks and other equipment – many flying American flags – could fill a ton of gravel on the grass.

At sunset, workers stop their trucks to eat, bathe, and go to bed. Special treatments: such as cigarettes or steak night – can help reduce 16-hour working days. Out-of-bounds workers cooperate with a local worker known as the “Bird Dog”.

Across the street is a warehouse with supplies such as transformers and wires. Outside the house, long wooden poles are waiting to be loaded onto trucks.

According to the store’s manager, Jordy Burg, they had some supplies after the storm, but they had to start ordering more quickly. But during the epidemic, like many things, it was a challenge after Ida to get some supplies.

Many people who come to help cover other disasters: Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Laura, and Hurricanes in Arkansas and Texas. It’s good money, but more than that, they say it’s a normal feeling for the naked person. And many suggest that the next danger could easily be in their own backyard. Last year, workers from SLECA flew to southwestern Louisiana and another Category 4 hurricane Laura hit the sea. This year, workers from southwestern Louisiana came to the east to help.

“A few hurricanes came back home and you know what it was like when you came out of power,” said Robbie Davis, a Georgia line worker. So in southeastern Louisiana, many people have nowhere to go, “these houses have been destroyed, businesses have been destroyed,” he said.

It could be a dangerous job – two people believed to have been electrocuted to restore power in Alabama have died.

The landscape of Louisiana presents unique challenges. In some areas, the lines between a boat and a pontoon boat pass through dense swamps that can only be accessed by a cross-shaped air boat or swamp badge. Workers are sent to mudslides, chest-water paddlers, intruders, and water intruders.

You only work in this area when you are in South Louisiana. I can assure you, you will not get this anywhere else. ” “It’s ugly. His chest is deep. You can’t walk because it’s growing. ”

As SLECA workers work to restore power to southeastern Louisiana, they are also battling hurricanes. After the General Manager’s house was badly damaged and looted, they dressed in Salvation Army uniforms. Colleagues helped each other by trapping broken roofs. After Ida removed the roof, the company was building trailers at its Homa headquarters. Burg is living in a trailer with his wife and two Boston Terriers – the children live with his in-laws – after Ida demolishes the house.

It is also more dangerous to see large rivers in their vast expanse. For many, gaining power is just the beginning of a long process of rebuilding. Peters is emotional when he talks about the commitment of his staff and the damage he has done to long-term customers.

“We’ve had hurricanes before,” he said. But the damage was nothing.


Follow Santana on Twitter @ruskygal.


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