Sudbury man returns from Louisiana after working to restore hydro service following Hurricane Laura
Dylan Rouleau is Powerline Technician who recently returned from Lake Charles, LA says close to half a million people were with left without power for days, if not weeks, before restoration efforts were able to start returning hydro services. (Supplied photo)
SUDBURY -- Dylan Rouleau, 31, was born-and-raised in Sudbury, Ont., and is a graduate of the Powerline Technician program at Cambrian College.
Rouleau now works for one of the few companies in Canada hired to restore hydro service as part of disaster relief efforts in the United States.
After Hurricane Laura swept through the state of Louisiana on Aug. 29, he was called in to work on a team made up of 16,000 linemen from across the United Sates helping the restoration efforts.
Those efforts include everything from repairing damaged infrastructure to rebuilding it completely.
Rouleau’s team traveled more than three days to reach the city of Lake Charles, La., which was one of the hardest hit areas in the state.
Hurricane Delta is currently moving through communities just north of the area he and his team were working.
Delta has developed into a Category 3 Hurricane reportedly set to bring a “life-threatening” storm surge to the gulf coast.
According to property data analysis firm CoreLogic, Hurricane Laura has already caused as much as $12 billion in wind and surge damage to more than 500,000 insured residential and commercial properties.
“This is definitely some of the worst devastation I’ve seen while working in the States,” said Rouleau.
“No power for 100 miles, no roofs on gas stations, apartment building are blown apart.”
Rouleau said close to half a million people were with left without power for days, if not weeks, before restoration efforts were able to start returning hydro services.
Photos show damage to area surrounding Lake Charles, La following Hurricane Laura.(Supplied by Dylan Rouleau)
The Cambrian grad has been part of several disaster relief teams across the U.S., including: Hurricane Sandy (2012), Winter Storm Nemo (2013), Hurricane Irma (2017), Hurricane Michael (2018), Hurricane Dorian (2019) and Hurricane Riley (2019).
With the billions of dollars in estimated damages and hydro service unavailable to a significant portion of the state, Rouleau said the military leads the response with assistance from contractors like himself.
Supplies and equipment are flown in to the closest airport, which acts as the central staging area for teams to access the materials required to repair the state’s infrastructure.
“When we arrived here we were staging, because they weren’t ready for us," Rouleau said.
"Basically, when a crew comes in, you have register and they’ll give you notice in 24 to 36 hours on where you’re going to work.
“The airport in Louisiana is the staging area, so we have crew leaders from each crew going to load up materials each day and drive back.”
While the military plays a humanitarian role during the disaster relief by facilitating clean-up and restoration, Rouleau said they are also providing a level of security.
“The military has brought in a bunch of equipment," he said.
"But they had to bring (the military) down here, too, for all the banks. They need people outside with guns or else they will get robbed. It was a nightmare down there.”
The COVID-19 pandemic creates significant challenges for support personnel coming in from out of state. Rouleau said long days are part of the job and his group travelled up to three hours each day to and from their hotel.
“They had setup temporary housing for us, but (the company) didn’t want us staying in trailers with 16 other guys.”
The Louisiana terrain also presents another set challenges for technicians.
“They want to get the hospital back on, the gas stations, the essential businesses, right?” Rouleau said.
Dylan Rouleau,31, has been part of several disaster relief teams across the U.S., including: Hurricane Sandy (2012), Winter Storm Nemo (2013), Hurricane Irma (2017), Hurricane Michael (2018), Hurricane Dorian (2019) and Hurricane Riley (2019). (Photo supplied by Dylan Rouleau)
"But that’s not just setting up a couple poles and turning on the circuits. Much of Louisiana has wires running through backyards, swamp area with alligators, and we don’t have this type of stuff in Canada.”
Hurricane Laura was the strongest hurricane to hit Louisiana since 1865.
With Delta now moving across Louisiana, some the biggest concerns for residents include roadway debris and power outages leftover from the storm surge just weeks ago, according to reports.
The National Hurricane Centre has warned the area surrounding where Delta is set to make landfall could produce a “dangerous” storm surge and parts of the Louisiana coastline could see up to 11 feet of water.