By Mike Sokol
Mike Zimmerman is one of our administrators from the RVelectricity Facebook group currently working in Lake Charles, LA. He’s part of the team restoring electric power to the area in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. While it’s not getting a lot of news coverage right now, there will be months (if not years) of recovery work on the Gulf Coast just to restore basic utilities and housing to millions of residents. I believe the latest estimate was $25 billion in damage.
Previously unpublished photos
I’ve asked Mike Zimmerman to share some photos (and his descriptions) of what he observed on-site last week that show the type of the work needed to put the electrical grid back together, and the various crews that are making it happen. All of these pictures (including the one above) were taken just days ago around Lake Charles. Volunteers are desperately needed for this type of recovery work after any disaster, and I’m sure the West Coast will be next on the list after the fires are extinguished.
Here comes the flood
Hurricane Laura’s eye wall, which brings the most damaging winds and intense rainfall, passed directly over Lake Charles, Louisiana, causing widespread damage to that area. The damage from Hurricane Laura’s historic intensity caused catastrophic damage to the electric grid across Louisiana and Texas.
Even though there wasn’t as severe of a storm surge as was originally projected, there was still plenty of water damage from localized flooding. That not only wiped out houses and business buildings, it took out much of the electrical grid.
Towers of Power down…
There were a number of 500,000-volt high-tension towers that collapsed due to high winds. The transmission system is the backbone of the electric grid and helps move power from the power plant to the lines serving customers’ neighborhoods. These large lines are like the interstate highway system. Without these lines in service, it makes it difficult to move power across the system to customers in the affected areas.
Boots on the ground
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors are installing temporary generators at one of the sites requested by the state of Louisiana. Emergency power installation is one of the Corps’ primary missions during emergency recovery operations, in addition to supporting the temporary housing mission, providing temporary roofing and conducting infrastructure assessments.
There are also a lot of FEMA trailers being installed in what were previously RV parks, but now have become temporary housing trailers for those displaced by Hurricane Laura. I’m guessing there will be few if any operational RV parks in the area for quite a while.
Lots of resource planning
Steve Hill, USACE Director of Contingency Operations, visits with us in Lake Charles on Sept. 6, 2020, as part of the Corps’ response to Hurricane Laura. There’s a real shortage in technical labor to put electrical systems back together, so a lot of support involves teaching new crew proper safety and installation procedures.
Remember, there’s water and downed electric lines everywhere, which can be extremely dangerous if you’re not properly trained. Safety of the crews is their #1 concern.
Members of the Memphis District’s Emergency Power Planning and Response Team are on the ground at Esler Field (Esler Regional Airport), near Pineville, Louisiana, to support the Hurricane Laura recovery effort. They are working around-the-clock 12-hour shifts and are ready to respond to any FEMA mission assignments.
The photo above shows the team setting up the Generator Staging Base at the airfield. In addition to portable generators, fuel supplies and other equipment are pre-positioned in this location. A Deployable Tactical Operations System vehicle is also on scene to support the team with office space and communications capabilities. —Mike Zimmerman
Keep your RV ready for evacuation
Hey, it’s me (Mike Sokol) again. I should remind you all that if you have an RV, it should be kept stocked to make a quick evacuation if there’s a fire, hurricane, flood or earthquake in your area. Having a properly stocked RV is the best way to keep your family safe in case something goes wrong that requires evacuation or long-term sheltering in place.
For example, a number of my colleagues in California were notified with only 15 minutes to evacuate. You DO NOT want to try and ride out any hurricane in an RV (look at the picture at the top), nor do you want to be crossing any moving water or driving through a wall of fire with your car or RV. When the time comes to evacuate, get the heck out of Dodge. Don’t make rescue crews go into danger to get you and your family out of a disaster situation. Be proactive and become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Let’s play and stay safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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