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Battered Louisiana power industry braces for yet another hurricane

Highlights

Two operating nuclear plants in storm path

Second hurricane to hit region within six weeks

New York — Hurricane Delta could make landfall as a major hurricane on the evening of Oct. 9, likely bringing more devastation to Louisiana's power industry, which is still reeling from the last few tropical systems this season.

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Entergy, Cleco and other southern Louisiana utilities have been recovering from Hurricanes Laura and Sally, but Delta may end up being the strongest of the lot. A few important pieces of infrastructure will likely be in the storm's path, including the 974-MW River Bend and 1,433 MW Grand Gulf nuclear power plants both owned by Entergy.

"Entergy's utility nuclear plants continue to function normally with no threats to operations," spokesman Neal Kirby said in an email.

"Our plants have conducted walkdowns, verified communications systems and secured any loose equipment that could be impacted by high winds. Waterford 3 currently is offline for a scheduled refueling outage, and all plants remain in a safe, stable and secure condition," Kirby said, adding "we continue to monitor the storms in conjunction with local, state and federal authorities."

Hurricane Delta is forecast to bring storm surge, heavy rainfall and dangerous winds, all of which can potentially result in extended power outages, Entergy said in an Oct. 8 statement. Entergy's Louisiana utilities are prepared to mobilize a storm team of approximately 10,000 employees and contractors to respond to any impacts, the company said.

In an Oct. 1 statement, Entergy Louisiana said it had restored power to all "accessible customers" in southwest Louisiana who can safely receive it after Hurricane Laura "devastated the region and catapulted the company into its largest restoration effort."

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Customers with damage to their homes' electrical equipment must make repairs before power can be restored, the company said.

Regional utility, Cleco, has also been preparing for Delta's landfall.

Second major storm within six weeks

In addition to Cleco personnel, the company has secured 1,861 contractor workers, including distribution line mechanics, vegetation specialists, damage assessors and transmission resources, Cleco said in an Oct. 8 statement.

"While there's still a good deal of uncertainty on how strong Hurricane Delta will be, it continues to track towards the Louisiana coast," James Lass, director of distribution operations and emergency management for Cleco, said.

"It's looking more likely that it will impact much of our service territory," he said. "As of this afternoon, the storm is projected to make landfall Friday afternoon with winds as strong as 100 mph which could cause widespread power outages," Lass said.

After wrapping up restoration work from Hurricane Laura in mid-September, Hurricane Delta threatens to be the second hurricane to hit Cleco's service territory in less than six weeks, the utility said.

"Having two major hurricanes back-to-back in much of the same area that was impacted by Hurricane Laura can be challenging, but Cleco is ready to respond," Lass said.

"We encourage our customers to be ready as well. Prepare now and be mindful of the COVID-19 pandemic when developing your plan. Take the necessary steps to protect your family and your property," he said.

Record storm activity

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is already one of the most active on record, only second to the colossal 2005 season, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

With Delta on the way, the current season has produced 25 storms and nine hurricanes, including three majors. By comparison, the record-holder 2005 season yielded 28 storms and 15 hurricanes, including seven majors, Platts Analytics said.

However, the 2020 season is carving out a number of its own records. By Oct. 9, Delta will become the 10th named storm to hit the US this season, shattering a record going back to 1916, the analysts said.