Call of Duty

(Left) More than 200 FirstEnergy employees are assisting Entergy with restoration efforts in Texas and Louisiana. (Right) Hurricane Laura's 150 mph winds caused extensive damage in Lake Charles, La.

September 9, 2020

During his 33 years with Potomac Edison, Operations Services Director Don McGettigan has participated in countless restoration efforts. Along with Brent Coakley, director, Operations Support, The Illuminating Company (CEI), Don is leading a team of more than 200 FirstEnergy employees who have spent nearly two weeks helping to rebuild the electric system in Texas and Louisiana following destruction caused by Hurricane Laura.

The contingent – which includes line workers, fleet mechanics and corporate support personnel – has been assisting Entergy with restoration efforts. The team was originally assigned to work in the areas of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, Texas, but has since been moved to Lake Charles, La., the hardest hit area.

In terms of wind speed, Hurricane Laura was the strongest storm to impact the region since the mid-1800s, according to Entergy. The category 4 storm made landfall on Thursday, Aug. 27, with sustained winds of 150 mph and knocked out power to more than 600,000 customers.

“The damage to the electric system in the area is extensive,” said Don. “The powerful winds broke cross arms, knocked down wires and snapped thousands of utility poles, so we are helping to reconstruct the electric grid from the ground up.”

Crews from eight of our utility companies are part of the mutual assistance effort, including: CEI, Toledo Edison, Penelec, West Penn Power, Met-Ed, Mon Power, Potomac Edison and Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L). The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) reported that more than 29,000 line workers from 29 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have been working in the region.

Did You Know?

Entergy delivers electricity to nearly 3 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

In addition, two members of FEU’s leadership – Penelec’s Craig Bean and Mon Power’s Joe Heubi, both general managers of Regional Operations Services – are assisting Entergy’s management team with coordinating contractor activities in Lake Charles.

According to Don, one of the biggest challenges FirstEnergy crews are facing is from the weather. “It has been very hot in the areas we have been working,” he said. “Our safety messages to employees have focused on staying hydrated and recognizing the signs of heat stress.”

Don added: “The weather conditions have been challenging for our fleet mechanics, as well. After providing support during our three-day drive to Texas, they have done an outstanding job keeping our trucks running in the extreme temperatures, repairing tires and fixing electrical and hydraulic components. We appreciate their hard work and dedication to keeping our equipment operating properly for employees.”

Even more important is keeping employees healthy as they work to restore service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Don said the FirstEnergy team packed an ample supply of masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. In addition, Entergy is following the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at staging areas to help keep all support personnel safe and healthy.

Don added that although repair work is progressing, there is still much to do. “Our goal is to help our fellow utility workers get power restored as quickly and as safely as possible to customers affected by Hurricane Laura.”