Hurricane Laura Storm Response

Preparedness and partnerships are key to a successful recovery.

When Hurricane Laura made landfall the morning of August 27, 2020, with sustained winds of 150 mph and higher as it roared ashore, it became one of the top five strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S.

Initial landfall occurred in the southwest corner of Louisiana near the Texas border. The town of Cameron, Louisiana, took a direct hit by the category 4 hurricane as storm surges exceeded 10 feet. Progressing inland across southwestern Louisiana, Laura unleashed destructive winds and damage across a wide area before it weakened to a tropical depression and moved north. Additional rainfall following the storm hampered immediate recovery efforts.

The governors of both Texas and Louisiana surveyed the storm damage to their respective states once the storm moved on. Numerous homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and many roads were impassable due to flooding and debris. Several power grids were destroyed, leaving nearly a million people without power.

System-wide, the major power company in the region had widespread damage to 292 substations. There was also significant damage to the distribution system that involved 9,760 poles, 3,729 transformers, and 18,707 spans of wire.*

To put the task into perspective, one 500-kilovolt transmission line in southwest Louisiana had 72 structures damaged beyond repair. Just one of those structures requires three semi-trailer trucks of materials and 1,300 man-hours to replace. That’s the equivalent of completing 72 construction projects in an emergency situation. The effort required a full-scale reconstruction, and the sheer logistics of rebuilding each line included many moving parts.

Just ONE 500 Kilovolt transmission line had


structures damaged beyond repair

To replace each damaged structure required



Extraordinary work underway to rebuild electric, water, cell, grid after Hurricane Laura., September 3, 2020

Planning Before the Storm Arrives

For the Wesco team, planning for Hurricane Laura began days before the storm arrived. Our pre-disaster implementation plan and supply chain management expertise were critical to the successful restoration effort. During dangerous storms like Laura, there is no time to waste. Establishing a clear plan of action ahead of time is essential to restoring the electricity once the storm has passed.

A few days before Laura made landfall, the team started planning for resources, assessing inventory in branches, dedicating stock for storm recovery, working with suppliers to order additional supplies, staging employees that could assist in the area, identifying potential staging areas, and reviewing logistical options to get materials to those locations.

As part of the ongoing Wesco Emergency Preparedness Plan, storm stock is allocated throughout our distribution networks for fast deployment in situations such as this. Storm kits, bug spray, raincoats, PPE, MRO supplies, pole line hardware, wire, poles, and other distribution materials are ready to ship as needed. Training and experience are the most significant safety requirements of emergency response. Wesco traditionally accomplishes both by requiring ongoing OSHA, health, and safety training. Having a team of experienced personnel that can deploy quickly is invaluable to these efforts. Personal protective equipment (PPE) was identified, obtained, and issued to employees, along with other safety supplies needed for protection.

Using the pre-disaster implementation plan meant the Wesco team was already a step ahead of the storm.

The Wesco Team Arrives

The extensively damaged grid required a far more complex infrastructure-replacement approach. Along with the local utility workers, tens of thousands of electrical workers from across the U.S. and Canada traveled to the region to begin the work. Numerous Wesco employees were onsite from early September through November to assist the utility customer, contractors, and linemen.

Hurricane Laura Volunteers

The Wesco procurement team worked with suppliers across the industry to ensure sourcing and delivery of essential supplies and keep the rebuild moving.

As soon as they were allowed, over 80 Wesco employees were deployed to the region to assist with the logistics of the rebuild. Personnel certified in equipment, operation, and safety functions and trained in material handling went to work. They provided transmission laydown yard management and coordination of services, including heavy lift and crane operations, site safety coordination, sanitation, lighting, hydration, site maintenance, garbage collection, and temporary facilities (CONEX and office trailers). The Wesco team acted as the third-party logistics coordinator for all laydown yard services for onsite personnel, including crane operation, receiving of materials, inventory documentation, inventory reporting, organization of inventory at each site, picking/pulling/packing of materials, and preparing them for shipment to the construction sites. Wesco also utilized local branch locations to assist with materials coordination.

Hurricane Laura Volunteers working under tent

Commitment to Safety

With safety always a priority to the Wesco team, the usual safety protocols were quickly implemented early in the rebuild effort. This included a site-specific Health and Safety Plan containing emergency contacts, prescribed plans and actions for emergency events, and customer site management and Wesco management contacts. The safety plan was posted in prominent places onsite for easy visibility, and the team followed the most stringent requirements set by Wesco and the customer.

An employee training matrix was created and maintained to track each employee, their training expertise, and relevant certifications. This matrix was invaluable in assigning tasks, streamlining daily efforts, and identifying employees with additional training needs.

Managers conducted daily "Tailgate Safety Minute Meetings" to review safety plans and keep workers focused on the safety and well-being of themselves and their team members. Daily communication, planning meetings, and reporting on tasks and resources kept all stakeholders informed.

Work Behind the Scenes to Ensure Restoration Continued

While utility crews, electrical workers, contractors, and Wesco team members worked on rebuilding and supply delivery, another group of Wesco employees ensured that everyone was staying healthy and fed.

Wesco managers from operations, sales, and projects supplied meals and refreshments for the employees, subcontractors, and customer personnel working in the laydown yards. Every day, these roving patrols would make their way to one of the main camps the utility customer had established. These camps included mess halls for meal preparation. Managers also packaged and delivered meals to the field when needed.

With the area experiencing suffocating temperatures and heat index values reaching 110° days after the storm, working conditions could quickly become dangerous. Keeping the crew properly hydrated was the priority. The Wesco management team kept coolers stocked with water, ice, and Gatorade at all laydown sites and replenished as needed. Roving patrols traveled from site to site to deliver first aid supplies, bug spray, rainwear, office supplies, and safety gear.

Large camps were stocked with all the essentials a construction worker might need, including a laundry tent, showers, and sleeping trailers. Wesco crews stayed together at a campground that had also sustained storm damage. While the sewer and water systems were functional, the electrical system had been severely damaged. Wesco purchased a 45kW towable diesel generator from a local rental company to power the trailers. A local electrician established a makeshift electrical distribution system with temporary cabling for the generator. All the camp trailers for the crew were powered using this system for the duration of their efforts.

A second storm threatened the area at one point during the restoration efforts, prompting an evacuation order. This involved securing the sites, finding alternative lodging, and evacuating the area. Thankfully, the teams were given the all-clear to remobilize and resume restoration.

Supply Chain Management: An Essential Part of Disaster Recovery

No single group or organization can manage every aspect of a power restoration effort this wide-ranging and complex. Optimizing pre-existing relationships, resources, and systems before a disaster or emergency helps impacted communities recover more quickly and effectively.

Hurricane Laura Volunteer

Flexibility and collaboration are vital to recovery.

Pre-storm resource planning and training, dedicated stock and pre-positioning of storm inventory, customer-specific product kits ready to ship on demand, dedicated resources and employees, and post-storm material handling ensured restoration efforts could start as soon as possible.

Using a combination of planning, relationships, safety and training, Wesco provided this utility customer with the experienced recovery and rebuilding assistance needed to restore power to the residents.

Utility truck providing emergency services

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