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Helping Complete the Circuit in West Florida
Entergy Employees from Louisiana Share Their Mutual Assistance Experiences
Tears streaming down her face, the elderly woman fell into Andy Roberts’ arms moments after he and other linemen helped restore power to her home in Lynn Haven, Fla.
It was a moment Roberts’ co-worker Ricky Whitaker will never forget.
"Andy stood there and held her for a minute," Whitaker said. "It's hard to think about what not having lights for a week and a half means. I will never forget how we could bring that much joy to someone by just doing our jobs.”
Whitaker and Roberts were among the approximately 170 Entergy employees from Louisiana who spent 15 days helping communities recover from Hurricane Michael, one of the strongest storms to hit the U.S.
The devastation left by Michael was the worst even some veteran crew members had ever seen.
Pictured are Entergy crews from Louisiana helping restoring power in Panama City, Fla.
‘RESIDENTS HERE ARE PHENOMENAL’
But despite the damage and loss of power, crew members said West Florida residents were among the kindest and most resilient folks around, which made “plugging in those meters and fuses” even more rewarding.
“The residents here are phenomenal,” said Martin Jackson, an Entergy News Orleans lineman.
He recalled a policeman thanking mutual assistance crews for quickly restoring power to critical infrastructure, including the local police station, as well as the moment of restoring power to a family’s home.
“We got the service up, threw the transformer in and that was by far the best experience — to actually see those lights come on and to see the relief on their faces,” Jackson said.
Sometimes, mutual assistance is more than helping safely restore power to people affected by a weather event. It is about helping people feel safe knowing we are there to help them.
‘NO SHORTAGE OF WORK ON THIS TRIP’
Crew members described damage that was typical of that left by tornadoes, with “trees broken like twigs,” said Ryan Caldwell, an Entergy Louisiana lineman from Lake Charles.
“This storm seemed to pack a little more of a punch,” said Jackson.
Crews, Caldwell added, used Google Earth to see where powerlines and other equipment had been before Michael struck. He said current satellite images showed Lynn Haven “flourished with greenery and trees” and that an updated image would likely show the opposite.
“There’s been no shortage of work on this trip,” Caldwell said.
Crews helped rebuild a portion of the Lynn Haven power grid, beginning at a substation and working outward by setting poles, installing transformers, running wire and making all necessary connections along the way.
“Watching it all come to life is the rewarding part,” said Justin Rivolo, an Entergy Louisiana lineman from Jefferson.
‘GIVING IT THEIR ALL’
While the line and vegetation crews may be the most visible, other employees like Deanna Lafont and the logistics team are working behind the scenes to keep the restoration efforts moving by coordinating lodging and the transit of materials, supplies and food.
Lafont, who is a wife and mother of three, has also provided logistics support to her family in South Louisiana while in Florida. She worked with a group of parents on Facebook, for example, to help her husband Mike acquire a costume for one of their sons to participate in book day at school.
“It’s hard being away from home. But this experience has given me appreciation for the dedication and work ethic of our employees,” Lafont said. “They’re here and they’re giving it their all. We’re proud to restore one of the most basic things people need to begin putting their lives back together.”
Pictured are Curt Clavier, Entergy Louisiana lineman from Gretna, and Deanna Lafont, who provided logistics support as part of the mutual assistance efforts following Hurricane Michael.