BLOG: East Texas Utility Scrambles to Restore Power After Hurricane

 

Hurricane Laura caused extensive damage in East Texas.

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Although it made landfall outside the state, Hurricane Laura knocked out power for hundreds of thousand customers within Texas and wreaked havoc on the local utility, according to a presentation this week at the Texas Public Utility Commission.

The Category 4 storm made landfall on Aug. 27 at Cameron, Louisiana, about 35 miles east of the Texas border. With sustained winds of 150 miles, Laura was the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana since before the Civil War. It was tied for fifth as the strongest hurricane ever to strike the United States.

Sallie Rainer, the CEO of Entergy Texas that serves East Texas, told PUC commissioners on Thursday that Laura led to 291,000 customer outages. The hardest hit Texas counties were Jefferson, Hardin and Orange, she said.

The storm likewise destroyed 60 miles of transmission lines and damaged or destroyed 39 substations, 1,031 poles, 211 transformers and approximately 380,000 feet of wire, she said.

UNLIKE OTHER STORMS

“This was unlike other recent storms we’ve experienced — the destructive force was the wind (and it) caused extensive damage to the transmission and distribution systems that we use to get power to our customers,” she said.

Ms. Rainer likewise explained that Entergy imports a significant amount of power from outside of Texas and that the storm caused extensive damage to the infrastructure it uses to import that power. This further complicated recovery efforts with only one of nine major transmission tie lines remaining in service.

Concerned about the possibility of greater system-wide blackouts, operators of electric grids outside of Texas ordered Entergy to shed 300 megawatts of customer load through limited outages. She said it was an unprecedented request, and required the utility to respond very quickly.

However, workers managed to restore power to 97 percent of customers within seven days of Laura making landfall, she said.  Within 10 days, power was restored to all customers who could take power, she said.

Ms. Rainer said more than 7,000 people were mobilized across Southeast Texas to complete Entergy Texas’ restoration efforts. Restoration efforts also included workers from 24 states.

 

— R.A. Dyer