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Power could take several days to return in Lafayette

LUS Peak Outage: 15,000
Posted at 8:18 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 00:24:43-04

LAFAYETTE — At the peak of Hurricane Laura, 15,000 Lafayette Utility System customers were without power.

Michael Billeaud was one of them.

"It's a blessing," he said. "They got out here. They got it taken care of quickly. They got power back up and now I can start running fans and drying out the bedroom."

Billeaud was lucky he wasn't home early Thursday morning when a tree crashed into his home.

"I woke up this morning to phone calls and texts of people calling and letting me know, 'Hey you have some problems. You have trees in your yard,'" he said.

Billeaud and his family stayed in Rayne, fearful the tall trees around his house posed a threat to his family. A threat that was clearly real.

"I didn't know what to expect," he added. "They sent pictures, but the pictures just don't do justice."

Billeaud's power came back on Thursday evening as he started cleaning up around his home. Still, it could be days before LUS restores power to all of its customers.

"When you have individuals who are without service and it requires three or four pole change-outs or removing an entire tree on the line and rebuilding from scratch, it takes a long time to get that coordinated and get the right people in place to turn them up," said Jeffrey Stewart, an LUS engineer and power supply manager.

LUS prepared for a total outage this week, something it hadn't considered in more than a decade.

"We were just nervous," Stewart said. "It had potential to be a devastating storm for us. Luckily we survived it pretty well. Luckily our utility neighbors survived it pretty well. We'll get through this in the next couple of days."

LUS brought in about 170 crew members from outside of Acadiana to help restore power, which it hopes to complete by Saturday. It chose to divert other assistance to harder hit areas.

Nicole McCrary, who lives across the street from Billeaud, said she's okay with that.

"There are a lot of places that need it more. If people in Lake Charles are getting power back and the emergency response they needed, I would be happy to wait until Saturday."

This storm was the first hurricane for McCrary, who is from Texas. She heard the tree fall on Billeaud's home. While his power was back online, when we spoke, hers was set to take a few more hours.

"When I saw the tree down I thought it would be three or four days because of how many trees were down because of the hurricane. So I'm super grateful it's going back up so fast," she said.

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