ST. MARTINVILLE – After three days of frustrating delays, a full day of it waiting for the wrong part to fix the problem, the city finally lit up again Thursday evening.
Not everybody had lights, for when the juice was finally turned on, unseen problems like blown transformers showed up. City linemen were working into the night to eliminate those glitches.
The main problem – a burned-out switch in an Entergy transmission line feeding Cleco power to the city-owned utility – was not fixed but bridged, jumped from a hot line to the dead one, at the insistence of City Councilman Craig Prosper, a contractor with some understanding of electrical power.
Prosper, who spent much of the day pacing along Cemetery Highway where the damaged switch sat on a pole deep in a muddy cane field, reportedly grew testy with Entergy officials who at first resisted his suggestion to jump the lines, and, he says, were slow to respond to the problem in the first place.
Mayor Thomas Nelson, who also spent a lot of time on the phone with Entergy, agrees.
“Entergy did not restore power in a timely manner,” Nelson told the City Council at its meeting Thursday evening, as lights were still winking on in neighborhoods across the city.
The mayor vowed to seek state funding for emergency generators at the police station and city hall.
“We need to be prepared for the next hurricane,” he said.
Entergy’s Liz Duhon said the company is dealing with widespread “transmission issues” and other problems and has extra crews coming in from Jennings and Lake Charles. The utility company serves 58 parishes in Louisiana.
Nelson praised the efforts of city employees in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, especially the linemen, who started working on the more obvious problems before the winds calmed, and the police department.
“I saw blue lights flashing all over town,” he said.
He also gave kudos to the local grocers, Lowell Gauthier and Bobby Cade, who sent hot plate lunches to the workers at the city barn and police station.