Entergy Arkansas and the state's electric power cooperatives are offering a pre-emptive hand as Hurricane Florence bears down on the coast of North Carolina, sending crews of linemen to ride out the storm at a safe distance and be on hand to help restore power as quickly as possible.
The storm is expected to make landfall sometime overnight Thursday into Friday, and 100 distribution line workers and support help from Entergy, the state's largest electric utility, are "hunkering down" in the Atlanta area until they get an all clear to come to the rescue.
An additional 100 linemen have been sent to the East Coast by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. Those workers are from AEC Inc., Arkansas Valley Electric, Carroll Electric, Clay County Electric, Craighead Electric, First Electric, North Arkansas Electric, South Central Arkansas Electric, Southwest Arkansas Electric and Woodruff Electric, according to cooperatives spokesman Rob Roedel.
Entergy's crews will be assigned to Duke Energy-Carolina, and the co-op crews will help Carolina co-ops restore power under similar mutual assistance agreements. Duke Energy has estimated that up to 3 million customers could lose service during the storm.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper emphasized Thursday morning that the storm, which has eased in intensity, remains huge and potentially deadly. "My message today: Don't relax. Don't get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today, the threat becomes reality."
Entergy Mississippi is sending 90 workers to help crews from South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., and Entergy operating companies in Texas and Louisiana have 146 workers on standby in case they’re needed.
Entergy Arkansas spokeswoman Kerri Jackson Case said that the heavy flooding expected with the storm could disrupt power restoration works, obviously because electricity and flooded areas are a dangerous combination.
Entergy and cooperative crews were crucial to restoration efforts after Hurricane Harvey inundated east Texas last year, and extra hands are welcome in North Carolina, which was receiving the first bands of rain from the Category 2 hurricane at 11 a.m. Thursday. Sustained winds were 105 miles per hour, and the eye of the storm was about 140 miles east-southeast of Wilmington.