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Two-man crew from Marietta returns home following Hurricane Laura relief efforts

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
Enrique Arguello (left) and Bryce Bumpass (right) stand by a work truck while assisting with restoration efforts in Louisiana. The two linemen visited the state to help repair electric infrastructure following a destructive hurricane.

A two-man crew from a local electric cooperative has returned home after spending more than a week in Louisiana assisting with restoration efforts. 

The state was hit by Hurricane Laura, a deadly and damaging Category 4 Atlantic hurricane, in late August. Hurricane Laura was reportedly one of the strongest hurricanes on record to make landfall in Louisiana, creating a wide-spread path of damage and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. The last hurricane with similar strength to make landfall in the state was recorded in 1856. 

Following the tropical storm, two linemen from the Red River Valley Rural Electric Association, based in Marietta, answered calls for help repairing electric infrastructure in southwest Louisiana. Bryce Bumpass and Enrique Arguello began their journey on Sept. 19 and returned this week. 

“We were the only two from REA but they had quite a few other Oklahoma co-ops that sent guys down there,” Bumpass said. “I think when we got down there they had 1,200 men that had come down to help.”

The two men worked around 16 hours each day to help restore power to residents in the area. Most people had gone almost two weeks without any power, Arguello said. 

“They were very grateful and very nice,” Arguello said. “They’d gone almost two full weeks without power and every day that we’d show up you’d see the biggest smiles on their faces.”

A lineman from Marietta works on a power line in southwest Louisiana following damage from Hurricane Laura.

One couple the crew was able to help was living out of a camper on their lot because their home had been totally demolished by the hurricane. Bumpass said the camper had two holes in the roof and the couple built a make-shift shed over the roof for when it rained. 

“She walked up and I can’t remember what kind of flower it was but she got us both a flower. She said ‘We can’t explain how grateful we are’,” Bumpass said. “She was in the best mood, but at the same time she was having to totally level the place she’d lived in for years.”

The damage in the area was extensive, with several trees toppled on top of houses and flooding still permeating the area. A tornado can sometimes clear up to a mile-wide path, but that is nothing compared to the damage left behind by a hurricane, Bumpass said. 

“Tornadoes don’t have anything on hurricanes,” Bumpass said. “It was definitely more destructive than a tornado” 

While it was difficult being away from family for so long, both Bumpass and Arguello agreed that the experience was very rewarding, making it worth it in the end. 

“We don’t get the opportunity to work on hurricane damage being from Oklahoma. Normally when the opportunity comes up you’re going to take advantage of it,” Bumpass said. “It makes you feel good to be able to go down and help people out.”

A tree toppled on top of a home in Louisiana following Hurricane Laura. A lineman from Marietta took the photo while assisting with restoration efforts in the area.