Icy stump

The stump of a water oak that fell during Hurricane Laura is covered with snow Monday morning in Lake Charles.

The severe winter storm that brought freezing temperatures to Southwest Louisiana caused widespread power outages Tuesday morning. The city of Lake Charles encountered a rare problem, as all of its water plants lost power at once, Mayor Nic Hunter said.

Entergy Senior Communications Specialist Brandon Scardigli said in a press release that its reliability coordinator, Midcontinent Independent System Operator, directed the power outages for customers in the southwest area of its service territory. Because the cold temperatures drove up demand for electricity, the outages were done “as a last resort” to keep “a more extensive, prolonged power outage that could severely affect the reliability of the power grid.”

Hunter said local officials asked Entergy to provide more of an advance notice to customers before a widespread power shutdown occurs.

Switching the water plants from Entergy to generator power took longer because of the freezing temperatures, Hunter said. The water plants eventually returned to Entergy power Tuesday afternoon.

Lake Charles will likely remain under a water boil advisory for a couple of days, Hunter said. The state Department of Health mandates a boil advisory be issued any time a city’s water pressure drops. The department must collect and test water samples before the advisory can be lifted.

Having so many residents running faucets severely depleted the city’s water reserves, Hunter said. He pleaded with residents to shut off their faucets for a few hours Tuesday so the water pressure could return to normal. As of Tuesday afternoon, the city’s water pressure was about 85 percent and was expected to return to normal by the end of the evening.

Hunter said the city and Calcasieu Parish continue to provide non-congregate shelters at hotels for close to 200 people in need. He said officials met Tuesday to discuss how long the shelter effort would continue.

“Certainly we are not going to put people back into elements if it’s unsafe,” he said.

The National Weather Service in Lake Charles said temperatures are expected to reach near freezing along the Interstate 10 corridor by daybreak Wednesday. Southwest Louisiana could see freezing rain or sleet early Wednesday and rain later in the day. Freezing rain is also forecast for early Thursday.

Despite the challenges with water and electricity Tuesday, there were no major public safety issues, Hunter said.

“We see a lot of people staying off the roads, and that’s probably a good thing,” he said.

The winter storm, along with Hurricanes Laura and Delta, were “once-in-a-generation events” in a 12-month span, Hunter said.

“When you pile these on top of each other, I certainly would hope we have a long road ahead of us before we encounter any of these instances again,” he said.

Hunter said the city had not received any reports of water mains breaking as of Tuesday. Residents who see any water main breaks should call 491-1483. Sewer backup issues can be reported by calling 491-1414.

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