NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Electrical service is often one of the first casualties of any tropical storm. In a system that puts transmission lines up in the air, where the winds are most severe, many areas lose power for weeks. But the power companies say they've taken steps to make the power grid stronger than ever.
Uptown resident Digges Morgan and thousands of others were without power for a full month after Katrina due to hurricane-force winds taking down the trees that give the garden district it's name.
"I had a magnolia on the corner, and that fell down," said Morgan.
Though Entergy has workers who clip trees year-round, the power lines remain vulnerable.
"In the city, we like to have a 4-foot clearing (around trees), and we tend to those trees every two years," said Melonie Stewart with Entergy.
Entergy said it constantly works to improve its distribution system. They have raised more than 20 substations like the one in Mid-City above the 100-year flood plain. They have also replaced small power poles with larger ones and put in fiberglass cross members to replace aging wooden ones. Higher lines have also been upgraded.
"We did a hardening study and determined we would make all our transmission poles able to withstand 140 mph winds," said Stewart.
With all the improvements designed to make the energy grid more resilient, Entergy says citizens need to take an active role, as well.
"Problem trees, call 1 800 Entergy. We will come out and trim it. It's better safe than sorry," said Stewart.
On the North Shore, it's not oaks but pines that caused power outages after Katrina.
"There were some that we could not bring back up in flooded areas," said Eric Schouest with Cleco, which provides power to St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
The company stepped up it's tree cutting to make the lines more resilient.
"If you keep up with that, you are limiting in the right of ways, the trees' ability to reach the system," said Schouest.
Both Cleco and Entergy say there are no guarantees, but the system is stronger.
"We usually restore 90 percent of the customers within seven days of a Cat 1, and within 10 days in a Cat 2," said Stewart.
Both Entergy and Cleco have cooperative agreements that will allow hundreds of electrical workers in to help get the system back up.
"There was a nice fella from Indiana, a lineman from an energy company up there, that came to help," said Morgan.
He is confident the power grid is stronger, but he's prepared for power outages should a hurricane strike.
Both Cleco and Entergy would like you to call to report trees that need to be cut if they are threatening power lines. Cleco: (800) 622 6537, Entergy (800) Entergy).