After Hurricane Laura made landfall the evening of Aug. 26, a team from New Braunfels Utilities mobilized to Southeast Texas to support recovery efforts.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm and caused widespread flooding, wind damage and power outages.
In response to reports of over 480,000 customer outages throughout Louisiana and Texas, teams from public power utility organizations, such as New Braunfels Utilities, have assembled to help communities restore power, according to the American Public Power Association.
On Aug. 27, local public power entity New Braunfels Utilities sent a crew of 11 people—nine electric operators and two fleet mechanics—to Hemphill to repair power systems and will move on to Jasper, Texas on Sunday.
“We are members of the Texas Public Power Association, and as such we have signed into a mutual agreement process with other members of [Texas Public Power Association],” said Gretchen Reuwer, the director of electric services at NBU. “When [Hurricane Laura] spun up... we knew the communities that would be hit, so we reached out to TPPA and got on a list to let them know that we were available.”
Reuwer said NBU sent a team to the same area of Texas in 2005 after Hurricane Rita and in 2017 assisted the Guadalupe Valley Electric Co-op and the city of Yoakum after Hurricane Harvey.
More than 5 million Texans are served by TPPA member organizations, and teams regularly assist in relief efforts in communities across the state, Reuwer said.
“You never know when something disastrous could happen to us, and we would want the same help and response from our brothers and sisters in the industry,” Reuwer said.
The NBU team will continue to serve small communities that were impacted by the storm on seven-day shifts as long as their services are needed, said Justin Green, NBU’s electric operations manager.
“Many groups, when they go to a natural disaster like this, they’re going to help people. They’re going to restore people’s lives back to some level of normalcy,” Green said. “Seeing the relief when they see linemen pull up ... it’s an amazing feeling.”
Hemphill interim City Manager Kelli Beall said the city suffered a total power outage the night of Aug. 26 and expects to have full power restored by the night of Aug. 28, after the NBU team began helping local electrical crews.
"They accomplished in a day what would have taken our small, four-man crew a week to do, so we are truly thankful," Beall said.