Feb 3, 2011 7:39 PM by Carolyn Cerda
The four major power companies in Acadiana are closely watching the radars. At their stations, it's all hands on deck. SLEMCO, CLECO, Entergy and LUS are all calling in back up crews from across the state, in preparation for Thursday night's ice storm.
"We are preparing. We have crews on standby," said Marty Smith with CLECO. "We have CLECO crews across the state on standby. We also have contactor crews on standby."
SLEMCO crews are also on standby. All of their trucks are fueled, loaded and are ready to react to the freezing temperatures, rain and sleet, and the downed power lines and fallen trees that sometimes accompany extreme winter conditions.
"Preparing for an ice storm or a freezing event is much the same as we do for a hurricane," said Mary Laurent with SLEMCO. "We have to have enough poles, wires, and enough employees to do what we do."
Thursday evening, nearly 300 employees and contractors were loading up trucks at SLEMCO stations. Some were inside, answering phones or making sure the warehouse was stocked with supplies. The crews don't just have the right tools, but also the experience needed to deal with the ice storm.
"We do volunteer up North, so we have experience working in cold weather conditions," said Laurent.
Liz Duhon with Entergy said, "We monitor the weather and we make sure we have adequate resources for the storm. We're lucky in the sense that we work both ice storms in Arkansas and hurricanes here in south Louisiana."
All four companies say they've already shifted the electric load to reduce the risk of any rolling blackouts.
"We're not anticipating any blackouts at this time but, conditions can change that," said Terry Huval with LUS. "Conditions could cause that (blackouts) to happen. There are no guarantees in this business."
Although these electric providers are primarily concerned with restoring outages, they hope customers are also making plans for the winter blast.
"Customers need to be prepared just like we're prepared to go out to calls," said Huval. "We'll do the best we can to restore power but customers need to be prepared for when the power might be out."
Smith said, "If you see a downed power line, don't go near it. Always assume that line is charged. Call CLECO. We'll come out and take care of it."
"They can run their thermometer at 68 degrees and their water heaters at 102," said Duhon. "Seal cracks on doors, windows too. This isn't the time to be on the road, this is the time to be home. "We just tell people to be careful and to stay warm and stay safe."