By Nicholas Sakelaris | CoServ
Update September 7, 2021: Thanks to CoServ, contractors and linemen from other co-ops, the Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative in Louisiana celebrated a major milestone Sunday by restoring power to 300 miles of line that had been damaged by Hurricane Ida.
CoServ has two linemen crews working in the areas north of Lake Pontchartrain to provide mutual aid to the co-op. One crew just finished working in the Slidell and Pearl River areas and is expected to get reassigned to another area soon. The second crew is working off Highway 59 near Mandeville and Abita Springs.
Their hard work is much appreciated by WSTEC members who have posted on social media thanking them for their dedication.
The two crews, which totaled 18 linemen, left CoServ headquarters in Corinth on August 30 and are expected to return by Saturday afternoon.
Local media reports estimate that power has been restored to nearly 70 percent of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but for some hard-hit areas outside of the major metro areas, it could take another two weeks to fully restore power. WSTEC estimates another 500 miles of line still need to be repaired and there are still 7,000 of their 52,000 members without power.
To continue supporting our co-op family, CoServ is sending another convoy of linemen, bucket trucks and other equipment to Louisiana to provide additional relief and assistance to WSTEC. They will depart Friday from CoServ headquarters.
Please join us in wishing our current Louisiana-based crews a safe return home and those that are departing to help a safe journey there. We’re all in this together.
Original story August 30, 2021: CoServ has 18 electric linemen working in Franklinton, Louisiana this week to provide mutual aid to Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
The crews are working on installing new utility poles, replacing cross arms, repairing conductors, and performing a general clearing of the feeder lines, said Shea Hassell, CoServ’s Director of Operations. Transmission lines are still down in the area so the distribution lines that CoServ crews are working weren’t energized as of Wednesday.
Once power is restored to the transmission system and substations, the hard work by CoServ and other co-ops will pay off as power is restored to members.
“Our crews are making good progress with work that has been assigned to them,” Shea said.
Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative member Stacy Molero saw CoServ's crews working Thursday so he's excited that he may get power back soon.
“I have seen your linemen in our area of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana and would like to say thank you for your support with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Ida,” Stacy said in a Facebook message. “When I saw the destruction the day after the storm I expected it to take months for power to be restored.”
He said he couldn’t believe how much of the electric infrastructure had been repaired Thursday as he drove down Highway 41.
“You have an amazing team! Be sure to pass this off to your linemen assisting with the restoration efforts,” Stacy said.
Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday as a Category 4 storm that unleashed winds as high as 150 mph. An estimated 1 million residents were without power at the height of the storm. According to local reports, more than 1,000 miles of transmission lines and hundreds of substations were knocked out by the storm.
Hotel accommodations are hard to come by in the area so CoServ’s crews are staying in Slidell, about an hour south of where they are working.
This is one of the largest mutual aid efforts that CoServ has done in recent years. The convoy of 16 trucks left CoServ headquarters Monday at noon but not before Operations managers and executives gave them a heartfelt sendoff. Many of CoServ’s current Operations leadership helped the same Washington-St. Tammany Electric Co-op after Hurricane Katrina, exactly 16 years to the day that this crew left.
That includes Cody Coulter, CoServ’s Operations Manager, who was a young Class C lineman in 2005.
“Take care of each other. It’s going to be hot. You’re going to be working until you can’t work anymore,” Cody said. “You’re going to have thousands of people without power. You’re going to do everything in your power to get them back on. You’re going to be dragging butt at the end of the day. But I promise you it’s going to be worth it.”
Greg Ward, Senior Vice President of Field Operations, reminded the workers to be safe and stay alert as they navigate the damaged area.
“We’re proud of you already. Come back here just like you left here,” Greg said. “That’s the most critical thing for us. People are waiting on you when you get home.”
He also told the linemen that if they need any help with their family while they’re gone to let them know immediately.
“We’ll take care of your people 100 percent,” Greg said. “Doesn’t matter what it is.”