Oklahoma’s electric co-ops send help following Hurricane Laura

Posted: August 31, 2020 at 9:52 am

SEPT. 13, 2020 UPDATE

Relief crews from Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, East Central Electric Cooperative and Kay Electric Cooperative arrived at Beauregard Electric Cooperative this past week to allow initial crews from these cooperatives to return home. Crew members from at least 12 of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are continuing the power restoration effort at Beauregard in DeRidder, Louisiana, along with 1,200 lineworkers. As of September 13, Beauregard reports power has been restored to more than 15,000 meters from its 43,000 meters following extensive damages from Hurricane Laura. We continue to pray for their safety, health and endurance. 

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SEPT. 9, 2020 UPDATE

Additional linecrews from Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are en route to provide reinforcements at Beauregard Electric Cooperative based in DeRidder, Louisiana. A total of 20 lineworkers from Southwest Rural Electric, Southeastern Electric, Lake Region Electric, Cotton Electric and Choctaw Electric are leaving this morning. A collective total of 65 co-op linemen from Oklahoma are providing assistance at Beauregard at this time following extensive damages from Hurricane Laura. Relief crews for some of the co-ops that have been assisting will be arriving later in the week. As of 9:00 a.m. on September 9, BECi has restored power to approximately 11,200 meters from its 43,000 meters. Restoration efforts are expected to continue for several more weeks. 

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SEPT. 4, 2020 UPDATE

A couple of more co-op line crews from Oklahoma are making their way to Beauregard Electric Cooperative, based in DeRidder, Louisiana to assist with restoration efforts. A crew from Cotton Electric Cooperative that had been assisting Claiborne Electric Cooperative based in Homer, Louisiana was dispatched to Beauregard this afternoon. A crew from Central Rural Electric Cooperative leaves Oklahoma tomorrow morning to provide mutual aid assistance to Beauregard. Four Oklahoma crews are currently already at Beauregard providing assistance, they are: Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative and Kay Electric Cooperative. Collectively, 36 co-op linemen are a part of the restoration efforts at Beauregard, which has incurred tremendous damage and devastation from Hurricane Laura. Three additional line crews remain at Claiborne Electric Cooperative: East Central, Choctaw, and Rural Electric. We thank these dedicated lineworkers for lending a hand to these communities in a critical time of need.

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AUG. 31, 2020 UPDATE

A collective total of 48 linemen representing eight member-systems from Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are providing mutual aid assistance and storm damage restoration to two electric cooperatives in Louisiana and one electric cooperative in Texas following Hurricane Laura. The record-breaking storm, which was later downgraded to a tropical depression, roared onto the Louisiana coastline early August 27 as a Category 4 storm, bringing 150-mph winds and causing destruction in its path. The storm also impacted portions of Texas and Arkansas.

Oklahoma line crews initially provided assistance to Panola-Harrison Electric Cooperative based in Marshall, Texas; and now have been dispatched to assist at Claiborne Electric Cooperative based in Homer, Louisiana; and to Beauregard Electric Cooperative based in DeRidder, Louisiana.

“These cooperatives have incurred significant damage to their systems,” says Derec Janaway, director of safety and loss control at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives who coordinates mutual aid efforts. “Some areas have experienced tremendous amounts of devastation and require hundreds of linemen consisting of construction crews and rights-of-way crews to turn the lights on again and help with repairs.”

Janaway’s job coordinating the relief effort has become more challenging due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the need to keep linemen lending assistance socially distanced and following health safety protocols.

While some of the linemen are staying in hotel rooms, others are in a tent city accommodation designed to protect them from the virus in areas where hotel rooms are not readily available. The tent city is equipped with HVAC equipment that includes special air filters capable of removing 99.4% of the virus and beds that are spread out farther than normal to safeguard social distancing guidelines.

Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are no stranger to mutual aid assistance and have previously helped other states in similar situations. As of August 31, the cooperatives that sent crews for this effort were: Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Cotton Electric Cooperative, East Central Electric Cooperative, Kay Electric Cooperative, Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and Rural Electric Cooperative.

The rebuilding and restoration effort in Louisiana will take several weeks, if not months. Oklahoma’s electric co-op crews could be involved in multiple rounds of assistance, typically lasting about 10-12 days at a time.

“Cooperation among cooperatives is one of the principles that guide electric cooperatives,” says Chris Meyers, general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “We are proud of the co-op crews that are lending a hand in this difficult time to help sister cooperatives. This is the cooperative difference at work. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the hurricane’s path.”