Katrina was ‘Super Bowl’ for Entergy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Utility’s employees up to challenge of devastating storm



LAPLACE — For the Entergy servicemen, disasters like the trouble from hurricanes is nothing more than their greatest challenge.

“Our guys on the line consider these things their Super Bowl,” Entergy St. Charles Customer Service Manager Doug Rhodes said. “What they do after these storms is just incredible.”

And the Entergy workers in the tri-parish region again had another challenge this past weekend after Hurricane Rita delivered the second storm-related punch in a month.

Just about the time electric was restored to most of the 80,000 River Region customers, Rita knocked out 30,000 homes again. However by Monday, only a few scattered spots were remaining to get power back.

Rhodes and Tammy Frank, Entergy Customer Service Manager for St. John and St. James, said that almost all of the power had been restored to the three-parish area after Hurricane Katrina hit four weeks ago. But this weekend Rita suddenly struck, and crewmen were back into high gear by Saturday morning.

Frank didn’t have long to try and catch a little extra sleep of her own, following three weeks of grueling work heading the local team trying to restore power to 30,000 customers in the St. John/St. James region following Hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Rita had her effects here this weekend, Frank awoke on Saturday morning to find 13,000 of her customers again powering up their generators, or not, with no power to their homes.

“You get the feeling of ‘enough already,’ but for us we just get back to work,” Frank said. “We don’t like it, but our goal is to just get to work as quickly as possible and get the power on for our customers.”

Frank said that by Monday she had the number of customers without power almost to nothing.

“To get most of the power back up within two days was about all I think people could have hoped for,” she said. “The thing that made this a little tougher on people, however, was that the damage wasn’t so obvious so we had a lot of people expecting it back sooner than it was.”

Additionally, the local Entergy team had just recently sent off the out-of-town help to other areas in the region.

“We had a company from Texas which was just about ready to go home to help with Rita, and we had to work out keeping them here. Then Ameren Electric Company was over in Jefferson and they came back to help us,” she said.

Tree trimming help from ABC and Nelson also got back to work here, and management with the local Entergy team was back out in the field as well.

“I was just surprised to get hit so hard from Rita,” Frank explained. “I thought, maybe 5,000 out…but not 13,000. It was more than I thought.”

Now Entergy is gearing up to “return the favor” to southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas areas.

“I’m about to head there for a long stay to help their area,” she said. “I was already gearing up to go, but with this delay, it got bumped a little. But now we have to help out those people who have helped us so much.” And as Rhodes said, “our guys are just chomping at the bit to get after these things when they happen. The work they have done for us is awesome.”