Utility crews battle icy roads during peak outages

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An historic winter in south Louisiana made for uncomfortable days and nights for some homeowners.

Thousands were left with no power or water as utility companies scrambled to make repairs. Utility companies said the recent round of snow presented them with a unique set of challenges.

Snow is not something people in Louisiana have come to expect. When it happens twice in one winter, it can slow things down. As ice covered the roads, cities shut down. Schools and businesses were closed. Demco spokesperson, David Latona, said that put an even bigger strain on power grids.

"Everyone is at the house. You're cooking, probably catching up on chores, doing laundry, and with the extreme cold temps, heating your home, which is up to 40 to 50 percent of your utility bills," Latona said.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission reports the demand this winter is up nearly 60 percent compared to last year. Demco said during this week's cold blast, 1,276 of its customers lost power. Entergy reports an estimated 2,400 of its customers in the Baton Rouge area lost power as well.

Latona said icy roads made it harder for workers to safely respond.

"We'll have crews placed on the other side of a major waterway so that in the case that the bridge is impassable, we'll be able to respond to outages on both sides of a bridge," Latona said.

Even so, Commissioner Dr. Craig Greene said as in any weather event, his office will review circumstances and response times and make necessary adjustments.

"What does the analysis show? What was done what could have been done differently? And then what's the most cost effective measure moving forward to make sure we have enough energy and power for the rate payers if this were to happen again?" Greene said.

Dr. Greene said a commissioned staff will provide him with their analysis in a month or so. Both Demco and Entergy report power has been restored to all customers at this point.

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