LAKE CHARLES, La. (KLFY) — The word devastation is not enough to describe what Hurricane Laura did to Louisiana’s fifth largest city.
Two weeks after the powerful storm packing winds of 150 to 180 miles per hour slammed into Lake Charles, the city is still without infrastructure, power, water, gas and food.
One of the state’s largest energy providers has restored power to more than 20-thousand customers, with another 80-thousand to go in Lake Charles alone.
Customer outages reached more than 616-thousand across Entergy’s service area leaving the company to describe restoring Laura’s destruction as an unprecedented event.
In the days before her arrival, meteorologists compared Hurricane Laura to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And while devastating, those storms brought mostly water damage. But Laura slammed into the Louisiana gulf coast with a powerful punch of 150 to 180 mile per hour winds that obliterated Lake Charles Louisiana nearly wiping it off the map.
David Freese with Entergy says it’s unlike anything he’s experienced in terms of restoring power. He says he’s “Had a lot of conversation with employees that have been through Rita, Ike and different storms and this is some of the worst damage they’ve ever seen.”
Freese is referring to all of the rebuilding they’ve had to do before even starting to restore power.
He says they had to rebuild their distribution and transmission systems that bring power to the city and surrounding areas (with a population of over 100-thousand.) “Entergy is rebuilding along with the community in southwest Louisiana”, he says.
Freese says, “Those are critical components of the electric grid because that feeds power to what we call the last mile.”
It is now just over two weeks since the storm barreled through and while there’s progress, Freese says it’s where they had to start before even beginning to restore power.
And just to give you an idea of how much work is being done and how much lies ahead, Freese says crews are rotating out on 12-hour shifts. “Our resources are in the thousands. This is the largest restoration effort that we’ve ever amassed in our company’s history.” The massive power rebuilding and restoration operation is also manning three staging sites for workers to access everything they need to get the job done. When asked how long it would take, Freese said at this point it’s hard to tell. “We’re going to be here for the long haul and we will get the system back up to normal. It’s going to be a long road, but we’re going to be there every step of the way”, Freese said.
Entergy says although they are working as fast as they can although the extent of damage and rebuilding required presents major challenges.
Customers in the hardest hit areas should expect extended power outages lasting for weeks.