FirstEnergy Line Workers Get a Taste of ‘New Orleans Culture’ During Hurricane Ida Restoration
Behind each army of out-of-town line workers restoring power to communities after destructive Hurricane Ida is a team of local residents making sure those workers are fed, hydrated and well taken care of.
Even while she was without power for 11 days after Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29, Lisa Karlin and her New Orleans-area community took pride in making sure FirstEnergy line workers and others enjoyed a hot, home-cooked meal each day and a cool and comfortable place to rest to escape the southern heat.
About 500 FirstEnergy utility workers from all 10 of its electric companies along with internal contractors have been working in several New Orleans suburbs for about two weeks, rebuilding several miles of the local power system that was severely damaged by Ida’s powerful winds. Their work includes replacing hundreds of downed and broken utility poles, hanging new power lines and electrical equipment and addressing hundreds of repairs to service lines into individual homes.
“When Penelec crews rolled up to our damaged street to begin making repairs, I asked some of the linemen what they needed and they replied, ‘We need to get your power restored, ma’am,’” said Karlin, who lives in River Ridge about 10 miles outside of New Orleans. “Us Louisianians pride ourselves on good cooking and hospitality, so we’ve given utility personnel a taste of our culture because we appreciate them more than words could ever say, and we don’t take no for an answer.”
Each morning, Karlin and a group of friends within her community prepared lunch for utility workers in and around her neighborhood. While the adults prepared and packaged the meals into dozens of individual containers, the children in the neighborhood decorated each container with colorful drawings and kind messages. Some of the most popular meals included jambalaya, pastalaya and chili mac and cheese, and line workers often asked Karlin for the recipes to take home with them.
“This is the least we can do for these heroes of ours who traveled hundreds of miles to help our local community begin the rebuilding process after this devastating storm,” said Karlin. “We started as strangers, but we looked after them just as they looked after us, and we formed a special bond by the time our community was fully restored to service.”
About five miles over in another community, the City of Harahan wanted to have a “farewell, thank you” parade for the hundreds of FirstEnergy line workers who restored power to nearly 10,000 of its residents. However, the crews had already relocated to another damaged community about 40 minutes away before the plan could come to fruition.
“We are very southern in our philosophy here in Harahan, and we love a good parade,” said Harahan Mayor Tim Baudier. “We brought water and ice to them every morning, and we wanted to let them know that we appreciated them. We hope to stay in touch with them.”
Other acts of kindness on display across Louisiana included free laundry services for line workers who had started to run out of clean clothing and care packages filled with Louisiana favorites like Cajun seasonings and sauces that could be enjoyed with line workers’ families once they were home.
FirstEnergy is a member of multiple electric utility mutual-assistance groups that work cooperatively to restore service to customers when a natural disaster causes large-scale power outages. Mutual assistance allows utilities to pool their resources to help restore power to customers faster. FirstEnergy and its employees have been honored numerous times by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) with its “Emergency Assistance Award” for the mutual assistance the company has provided during winter and summer storms.
The company’s line workers, forestry crews, support personnel and internal contractors have been in Louisiana assisting Entergy with restoration efforts for more than two weeks, and they expect to arrive home later this week.
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