Insights > Preparedness, Response and Reliability – Entergy Recounts Damage and Restoration from Katrina/Rita

Preparedness, Response and Reliability – Entergy Recounts Damage and Restoration from Katrina/Rita


Bigger. Better. Faster. Stronger. More resilient.

All of these descriptions were used this week to describe Entergy's storm response since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast 10 years ago.

Dennis Dawsey, vice president of customer service for Entergy Louisiana, Entergy Gulf States Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans, spoke Tuesday at a special briefing of the Gulf Coast Power Association.

"When you look at the devastation and impact of the combination of Katrina and Rita, they were six times more impactful to Entergy than any previous storm we ever experienced," Dawsey said. "We had to rethink every process we were using. Whatever we did in past storms wasn't enough. It was a difficult, difficult restoration."

Dawsey recounted just how devastating the hurricanes were. With Katrina, 1.1 million customers lost power – 1/3 of the Entergy service territory. Damaged in the storm were 3,000 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution lines and 17,400 distribution poles. Nearly 2,000 New Orleans-based employees were evacuated. Two million calls were made from customers – as many as 46,708 calls per hour at the peak of the storm. Restoration was completed in 42 days.

Just 26 days later came Hurricane Rita. In four states, 800,000 customers were without power, all transmission connections from Louisiana to Texas were severed, 341 transmission lines and 443 substations were out of service. Over 11,000 distribution poles were destroyed and 1.23 million customer calls were received. Restoration was completed in 21 days.

"We had to amass the largest restoration workforce we had ever encountered. When you amass workers like that, you have to keep safety first. It's a very chaotic situation," he said.

More than 30,000 restoration workers were engaged in the two back-to-back storms. From feeding and housing the workers to making sure employees received proper medical care and vaccines, Dawsey said the logistics were crucial.

Dawsey's presentation was fascinating to many in the audience, including LSU electrical engineering major Sung Jung. Jung happens to be the son of Jai Jung, a nuclear engineer at the Waterford 3 plant.

"When Hurricane Katrina swept New Orleans in August 2005, I was 11 years old and just finished a week in middle school," Sung Jung said. "My family evacuated to Alexandria, Louisiana, where my brothers and my mom stayed until December. I remember that my father, who worked for Entergy, had to return early to join the reconstruction effort.

"Now, ten years have passed since Katrina/Rita, and Entergy's presentation today showed me exactly what lessons were learned since then," he said. "The presentation clearly demonstrated Entergy's effort to serve our community better, and reactions to storms such as Gustav, Ike, and Isaac proved that their efforts were very meaningful. Finally, the presentation also made me think about what I can do later to serve my community as a prospect in the power industry."

Since Katrina and Rita, Entergy has worked to upgrade equipment and infrastructure, improve communications and drill annually to prepare for all types of weather events.

This has helped Entergy better respond to other major storms in recent years, including hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Isaac, Dawsey said.

"Every major storm we've had since Katrina and Rita, we've gotten a little bit better. That's our expectation -- to get better every time," he said. "We use a lot of tools. One is rebuilding to a higher storm-hardened standard, but another is our storm response plan."

Kacee Kirschvink
Manager, Entergy Arkansas Communications