Southeast Texas companies provided aid
in recent tornado outbreak
BY JAMES SHANNON
The massive outbreak of killer tornadoes that occurred April 25-28 resulted in an estimated 327 deaths and left a path of total destruction in its wake. When such disasters strike, the call for help goes out to neighboring states – and Golden Triangle companies and individuals answer the call.
The severe weather rolling across the south gave only a glancing blow to Southeast Texas. Crews with Entergy Texas Inc. restored power to fewer than 10,000 customers here, a very different picture from that seen in states served by other Engery division, particularly in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi where outages numbered in the tens of thousands.
“After experiencing only a few scattered outages from more thunderstorms overnight, Texas crews are now packing up and heading north,” an April 25 statement from Entergy Texas says. “Crews that left this morning were bound for Arkansas where Tuesday’s storm, the third major storm to hit Arkansas in 11 days, left 88,000 without power. Another group is leaving for Mississippi this afternoon.”
Personnel sent to Arkansas included 49 Entergy Texas distribution line toolworkers, 27 contract toolworkers and 10 transmission line contract toolworkers, in addition to four, three-person management teams with 13 support personnel and a six-person staging crew. Later that same day, a team of 60 headed for Mississippi, 45 of whom were toolworkers with the remainder serving as support personnel.
Entergy Texas management said despite this deployment, the company was careful to maintain a sufficient number of crews within Southeast Texas to handle local customer service needs.
For Valrico Ventures, emergency response in a disaster represents more than a good deed – it is their reason for existing in the first place. They specialize in fuel delivery management, including delivery with four-wheel-drive trucks for difficult sites. On a moment’s notice, those trucks will be loaded with 300-gallon tanks to refuel emergency generators at cellphone towers. They can also deploy boats when needed, as they did after Hurricane Katrina, for rescue efforts or fuel delivery.
According to Cindy Perez, Valrico vice-president for operations in Port Arthur, the company also can perform debris removal as well as generator repairs, maintenance and reconnaissance work.
It was possible to follow Valrico’s progress in real time through posts by Perez on Valrico’s Facebook page.
“Our drivers are on the roads throughout the Alabama area fueling cell tower generators. It is devastating to see it in person,” she posted. “My guys have been through hurricanes and ice storms — this is the worst. Please pray for those who had something last weekend and this weekend have nothing.”
Clients including Sprint and Verizon depend on Valrico to keep their cellular customers on the air after a disaster.
Perez next posted this message: “(The) manager in Arkansas deployed us to his area to fuel in the area hit by the first set of tornadoes. While finishing there we received a call from the Mississippi region to fuel for the next set of tornadoes. It then went to a call for Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. In the midst of everything with Verizon, we received a call from Sprint asking us to deploy to Alabama.”
Valrico’s eastern hub is headquartered in Seffner, Fla.
“My crew from Florida hit the road headed to Alabama for Sprint. We tackled it head on and had ZERO cell towers go down because they ran out of fuel. This is a huge accomplishment,” posted Perez.
To date, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates the outbreak spawned 305 tornadoes, making this the largest tornado outbreak in history – surpassing the April 3-4, 1974, outbreak with 148 tornadoes. NOAA estimates there were more than 600 tornadoes during the month of April 2011. The previous April tornado record was 267, set in 1974. With an estimated 327 deaths, this is the third deadliest tornado outbreak on record, behind 1925 with 747 and 1932 with 332. So far, 2011 is the 13th deadliest year for tornadoes on record with 369. The deadliest year was 1925 with 794.