August 30, 2021
Most of the drive while I go to work is along parts of three interstates. Yesterday I passed a convoy of eight bucket trucks and the two support vehicles headed east. As I turned north along another interstate there were two other bucket trucks that passed headed south. It looked like the utility companies were gearing up for the loss of power that Ida was predicted to bring Louisiana later that evening. I realized the long drive these workers had ahead of them was going to be followed by even longer days and nights as they worked to repair the damage caused by hurricane Ida.
Ironically, Ida hit Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. When Ida hit as a Category 4 hurricane it knocked out power to the entire city of New Orleans. Late Sunday night Mayor LaToya Cantrell tweeted, “We have now lost power, citywide! This is the time to continue to remain in your safe places. It isn’t a time to venture out!!” The area’s utility company reported all eight transmission lines that deliver power to New Orleans were out of service. At least one person died, and power is out across Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said virtually no one in the state has electricity and many water systems are also out. That is the reason for the bucket trucks making their way to Louisiana.
As Ida crashed ashore Louisiana was already reeling from a resurgence of covid-19 infections that has strained the state’s healthcare system. There are an estimated 2,450 covid-19 patients hospitalized statewide and many are in intensive care units. Hospitals are required by law to store at least 24 hours of diesel fuel onsite to counter a power outage. Still, at least one hospital was reported without power last night. During Hurricane Katrina, some hospital staff evacuated New Orleans when they were expected at work, and hospital administrators have since better communicated emergency plans to reassure all staffers that their safety is of prime importance. Patients, staff, staff families, and even pets were put at risk when Ida hit and will remain so during the aftermath.
Thoughts: I found another report on the effect of Ida while I researched online. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida thousands of line workers streamed into the state to repair the damage. While this is a noble service, it is also greatly rewarding. As the monstrous storm was expected to knock out power to half of the nation’s third most-populous state, the workers had been told to expect at least a month of straight 16-hour days, with no breaks, trying to restore power to millions of homes. Many of the journeyman linemen savored both the financial opportunity and the adventure of racing into a historic hurricane. “I’ll probably make 30 grand this month,” one worker commented. “Of course, you’re dealing with something that could kill you any minute.” Another pro and con of being an essential worker. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.