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Local power crews aid storm-battered Louisiana

A local crew with Arc Power Line Construction and Electrical Services prepare Thursday to head to Louisiana for hurricane recovery work. (Submitted Photo)

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As people in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas struggle with the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, some in Roswell have traveled to the area to help.

Four men from Roswell who work with ARC Power Lines and Electrical Services, including foreman Mike Patterson, Nate Graham, Justin Wright and James Wise, left Thursday to head toward the Lake Charles, Louisiana, area to help restore power to thousands who are without it now.

The hurricane hit land in Louisiana near the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas state line in the early morning hours of Thursday. According to an Associated Press account on Saturday afternoon, 16 people in the United States are known to have died due to the storm, as well as 15 in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Louisiana officials were saying that hundreds of thousands of residents could be without power or water for weeks.

Patterson said he is seeing damage that he considers to be worse than Hurricane Rita of 2005, which he also helped with recovery efforts, a conclusion other linemen also are reporting.

“They said this is way worse than Katrina and Rita, in terms of devastation, way worse, as far as power outages and things broken,” Patterson said.

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Metal debris, fallen trees, ground saturated with water, trucks buried in mud, roofs wrapped around transmission lines, and no food on store shelves are just a few of the things he has seen since arriving early Friday.

The Roswell crew, as well as an ARC Power Lines crew of four from Artesia, are staying in a 300-person tent camp for the next three weeks, with meals provided, working 16-hour days. Then they will return home for a week, with plans to head back for another three weeks of work after that.

“Basically we are just working, coming back, taking a shower, going to sleep and then back at it,” Patterson said.

ARC Power Lines is working with JD Power, one of three rural cooperatives serving the rural areas outside the Lake Charles and Jennings area. Patterson said about 450 power and electrical crews are in the area, in addition to tree trimmers and other recovery workers.

He said the electrical coop his company is working for has reported that 99% of its customers are without power. It likely will take about a month to get power restored to about 50% customers, Patterson estimated, and as long as three to four months to get power back to customers that experienced significant damages to structures.

“Send out prayers for everyone here, safety for the linemen and everyone living here. It is pretty rough. I don’t know how people can survive this, but they are pretty hardy,” he said. “And give a shout out to all our wives and family. They are pretty supportive of us coming over here, and they are missing us. There’s a lot of school stuff and craziness with COVID-19, and we are not there to encourage them. We are out here clear across the country. By the time three weeks are up, we will be missing them for sure.”

Xcel Energy also sent employees and contractors from Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin to the storm-damaged region to respond to the needs of about 670,000 customers.

Xcel crews will be assigned initially to Entergy Louisiana and Southwestern Electrical Power Co., according to an Xcel news release.

Xcel assists on a voluntary basis along with other electrical companies after major storms as part of the Edison Electric Institute’s Mutual Assistance Program.

“This is a massive undertaking with extensive damage, but our crews are ready to bring power back on safely, said Larry Crosby, senior vice president of distribution operations for Xcel. “It’s what we would do for our own customers, and we want to deliver that same quality of service to the people of Louisiana.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.