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Contributed photo by Erlanger Health System / Life Force 1 in the hangar with other Global Medical Response helicopters assist with relief efforts from recent hurricanes.

More than a week after a category 4 storm roared ashore in southwest Louisiana, hundreds of relief workers from Tennessee and neighboring states are still working to restore power, rebuild wind-damaged homes and businesses, and aid the storm victims in the path of Hurricane Laura.

A Chattanooga-based electric service contractor dispatched 260 lineman and other repair workers to Louisiana to aid Entergy and other utilities restore power cut off to more than 300,000 households and businesses in the storm-affected areas. Some workers are likely to remain on the job for several more weeks.

"It's been very devastating and the wind damage is probably as great as anything we've seen in this area since Hurricane Michael (in 2018) and Hurricane Katrina (in 2005)," said Keith Sheppard, president of Electric Service Co., the Chattanooga-based subsidiary of Quanta Services Co. "The distribution portion of the rebuilding effort is coming together, but it's been slow due to the amount of debris and wind damage."

Service Electric Co. in Chattanooga typically dispatches repair crews to storm-damaged areas and has aided in numerous storm-relief efforts.

Eighteen line workers from two Tennessee electric cooperatives also were dispatched to Louisiana to assist with Hurricane Laura recovery efforts under the mutual aid agreements among most U.S. power coops. Plateau Electric Cooperative in Oneida, Tennessee and Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative in Covington, Tennessee sent crews to aid in putting up power lines and poles to serve the storm-damaged Jefferson Davis EMC in Jennings, Louisiana.

"Our crews have a reputation for responding quickly, working safely and showing compassion to those who are in need," says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

For the fourth year in a row, an Erlanger Life Force air ambulance also was deployed to assist with national hurricane disaster relief efforts. Life Force 1 along with two flight paramedics, two flight nurses, two pilots and a mechanic were sent to Lafayette, Louisiana following the storm to aid in the rescue of stranded and injured persons.

"Our crew never fail to be one of the first to respond when disaster strikes," said Dr. William L. Jackson, president and CEO of Erlanger Health System.

Three years ago, Erlanger's Life Force crew assisted with relief efforts in Texas related to Hurricane Harvey. In 2018, the team went to the Carolinas to participate in Hurricane Florence, and last year the team responded to assist with Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in Florida and South Carolina.

Tennessee's biggest health insurer also offered aid this week to the victims of Hurricane Laura. The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross to support its relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region.

"We realize there will be a long road to recovery, especially with COVID-19 precautions in place, but we hope these funds will help to quickly improve the safety and well-being of those affected," said Roy Vaughn, executive director of the BlueCross Foundation.

Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf Coast with 150 mile-an-hour winds on Aug. 27 and dropped up to 18 inches of rain as far north as Mississippi and Arkansas. Laura claimed at least six lives and destroyed many homes and businesses, including those in the hard-hit city of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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