Alexandria, La. (May 24, 2022) – With an above-average hurricane season predicted, Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall said the City is ready for the beginning of hurricane season next week.
Hall hosted his monthly State of the Community update Tuesday at the city’s Electric Distribution Department. He said the city will use lessons it has learned from the major hurricanes of the past two years and is more prepared to respond should another major hurricane affect Alexandria.
“While we hope hurricanes won’t affect Alexandria, we are making plans assuming that we will have at least one Laura-level storm to deal with this year,” Hall said. “We are taking steps to fortify our infrastructure to make our systems more resilient, and we have fine-tuned our response plans to help speed up recovery efforts.”
Hall noted that the city lost its main electric transmission line when Hurricane Laura hit in 2020 resulting in 100 percent of city customers losing power. “I can’t ever remember that happening, losing 100 percent of our customers,” Hall said. While experts at the time predicted it could be days or even weeks before power was restored, Hall said 25 percent of Alexandria customers had power restored the same day the storm hit, and half of all city customers were back online by the end of the next day. Every customer who could receive power was back on by the end of the week.
“We went from zero customers with power to 25 percent back online the same day the storm hit. That was remarkable,” Hall said. “That rapid recovery was possible because of the planning and preparation we did before the storm hit and because of the hard work and dedication of our employees and the municipal utility partners that came to our aid.”
Hall emphasized the work of city employees was critical to the successful response efforts. He specifically recognized Electric General Supervisor Joe Saucier, Superintendent of Water Operations James “Jimbo” Graham, Interim Public Works Director Sandra Washington and Assistant Utility Customer Service Manager Anita Rachal for their efforts leading their teams.
Looking ahead to this storm season, Hall explained the city has built up its supply of equipment needed to restore service in the event of a major storm. In addition, workers at the D.G. Hunter power plant are working to ensure they can help provide power if the city were to lose its main transmission line again.
“D.G. Hunter isn’t big enough to power the full needs of the city. But we are working to ensure that we can provide power to our hospitals, water pumps and essential recovery operations until full transmission services are restored,” Hall said.
In addition to improvements to the electric system, Hall said major improvements have been made to the water supply system as well. Those improvements include adding wells in the city to increase capacity and adding more backup generators to power pumps during electrical outages.
Finally, Hall noted the city has invested heavily in drainage projects to reduce the chance of flood waters entering homes or businesses. “We have invested more than $2 million in ditch enclosures in the past three years. We have also completed three major capital improvement projects totaling more than $2.6 million. And we added $6.8 million to this year’s budget for drainage projects,” Hall said.
In closing, Hall encouraged residents to take steps now to ensure they are ready for the upcoming hurricane season. “If you have a backup generator, now is the time to test and make sure it works. Go ahead and have your emergency supplies, like flashlights, batteries, cell phone chargers, bottles of water, medicines and canned goods ready,” Hall said. “We’ve seen a number of supply chain issues this year, so some things may be harder to come by.”
Residents may go to the city’s emergency preparedness website at www.cenlaready.com to get supply lists and get information for preparation for hurricane season as well as other emergency preparedness information. Residents may also sign up on the site to receive free text or email alerts. regarding severe weather.
During an emergency, residents may go to www.cenlaready.com or to the main city website at www.cityofalexandriala.com as well as the City of Alexandria Government Facebook page for updates from the city, including notices concerning sandbag and water distribution.