COLUMBIA – The Boone County Electric Cooperative sent 10 linemen and five trucks to DeRidder, La. Saturday morning to assist with power restoration efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.
The hurricane left all 41,000 customers of the Beauregard Electric Cooperative in Louisiana without power, according to a press release.
Meredith Hoenes, communications specialist for the Boone County cooperative, said it is common for different cooperatives to share resources in times of need.
“They have 5,000 miles of lines, so they are potentially looking at – if they did it on their own – months of recovery, and co-ops don’t want that for their members,” Hoenes said.
Hoenes explained due to COVID-19, recovery efforts will be structured differently.
“Normally when we go on mutual aid, we just find hotels,” she said.
This time, the crew will stay in a specially modified tent city designed with virus precautions in mind.
Hoenes added that when calls from cooperatives in disaster areas come in, they have to turn some helping hands away.
“We have to put our linemen on, kind of like a rotation, ‘Ok who went last? Ok, you guys can’t go this time,'” she said. “Because if we simply ask for volunteers, every hand in the room would go up to go down there.”
Hoenes underscored the fact linemen are essential workers. Beyond the natural dangers of COVID-19, she said there is already a number of obstacles in the recovery area.
“We could be dealing with some flooding situations,” she said. “There’s probably going to be tons of debris they’re going to have to remove, not just from roadways to get to where the problems are, but the lines themselves.”
Because of the nature of the situation, part of the crew sent to assist will be working on the power lines, and the other part of the crew will be a “right-of-way crew” working to clear obstructions.
Hoenes said the entire process can take anywhere from weeks to months to restore power.