Cleco updates officials on emergency preparedness

By Jamie Anfenson-Comeau

jamieenews@bellsouth.net

It’s the start of another hurricane season, and Cleco plans to be ready.

James Lass, Cleco’s general manager of distribution engineering and emergency management, spoke with local public officials, first responders and media representatives at LSUE Monday, reviewing the company’s hurricane preparations and emergency procedures.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center announced last week that the current season is expected to be a near-normal or above normal hurricane season, and the University of Colorado is predicting 15 named storms this season, including eight hurricanes.

Predictions for the two years following hurricanes Rita and Katrina have fallen flat, but, as Lass pointed out, “All you need is one hurricane to hit you and it’s a bad year.”

Once a storm is predicted to reach the state Cleco monitors two weather services, coordinating activities from its Emergency Operations Center in Pineville.

These forecasts help the company determine the number of contractor crews, supplies and materials needed for the restoration.

Cleco has a mutual assistance agreement with contractors and utilities outside the area, who will provide assistance, logistical services and security should a hurricane be about to hit.

Once the storm makes landfall, the teams are ready to perform their duties and are mobilized to the area impacted.

Cleco’s priorities are to: 1), assess damage from the ground and from the air; 2) repair transmission lines and distribution substations; 3) restore power to critical services such as hospitals, nursing homes and police and fire departments; 4) repair lines that provide power to the largest number of customers the quickest; 6) systematically restore power to businesses and neighborhoods, followed by single residences.

“Safety’s our number-one concern,” Lass said. “If it takes a few extra minutes to get the lights on, we want to do it safely.”

For first responders, Lass stressed that it is vitally important that they wait for trained Cleco personnel to arrive when dealing with emergencies involving downed power lines.

For the general public, Lass said it is important for people to notify Cleco when their power has gone out due to a storm.

“They should call Cleco’s 1-800 number (1-800-622-6537) to report the outage, and then they should do what they need to in order to care for their families,” Lass said.

Jim Ardoin, Manager of Distribution Operations for Eunice-Opelousas, said that many people assume their neighbors have already called.

“We might have miles of line out that we’re not aware of. Please make that call. The more calls we get, it’s like putting a puzzle together,” Ardoin commented.

For those who have evacuated, the company’s web site at www.cleco.com, provides a link which contains updates on where power is currently out as well as estimates as to how long it will be before power is restored.

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