New Orleans’ system rides out
storm, gets back to business
John E. Carlson, P.E., Director, District Energy Operations, Entergy Thermal LLC
Editor’s Note: Shortly after Hurricane
Katrina hit New Orleans, IDEA President
Rob Thornton checked in with John Carlson,
director of Entergy’s district energy system
in New Orleans, to see how the system
had fared. John emailed back and provided
excellent commentary on system operations
and the conditions in the area around the
plant. He generously offered to prepare
an article on his experience. His observations are presented here in blog form,
along with chronological newspaper
headlines that appeared at the time.
Emergency planning is a normal
process. In New Orleans, we know
we live in a vulnerable area, so we
review and update our emergency plans
every year prior to hurricane season.
The emergency plan for Entergy
Thermal’s district energy system calls for
a skeleton crew to remain at the plants
and operate the facilities throughout a
storm. Employees who are released and
evacuate the area will check in after the
s Mtor Pram eyp poas arses rUa atrnigd r oeep nsor sSt btaockrtmo work to
Times-Picayune, Aug. 27, 2005
relieve storm personnel and restore operations to normal. That normally works
very well; but Katrina changed the rules.
On Mon., Aug. 29, 2005, the levee that
protects the central portion of New Orleans
broke. Water flowed through the 17th
Street Canal and into the city. Other sections of levees also failed, inundating other
neighborhoods and towns. In some places,
the water was more than 20 ft deep.
Communication was the immediate
and most difficult problem. Our normal
contacts were office telephones numbers,
cell phone numbers, home telephone
numbers and email addresses for our
employees and customers. They all went
out of service.
Those processes didn’t work because
the entire 504 area code was wiped out.
Antennas were blown down, batteries for
communication towers went dead after a
few days, and emergency generators for
the communication companies were flooded or ran out of fuel in a day or two. All
methods of communication were down
with one notable exception: the PIN-to-PIN
Blackberry communication that we had
never used prior to Katrina. It worked.
One problem, however, was that we did
not have everyone’s personal identification
number (PIN). Also, not all critical personnel had Blackberries. It took weeks to re-establish communication with everyone.
Email communications both internal
and external were non-existent or functionally useless for the first few weeks. It
was not a delay or response issue; rather,
the error messages indicated that companies and universities simply did not exist.
People realized this very quickly and
busily attempted to re-establish systems
with servers in other locations outside
After the levee broke on Monday the
29th, we shut down our steam plant a
few hours later for safety reasons when a
steam leak developed in the basement of
the last customer still taking steam, and
flooding prevented isolation of the leak.
H O I L Gsu Tev ouvIer llnr ler fui RCevcnia ise odn saeFwae sa.t stieNK lI;dea sMwt Car usiOn rcip2hrale:T poah lefnes d;
The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2005
We were able to maintain our chilled-water service until Tuesday afternoon
when we confirmed that our customers
were either shut down, preparing for or
in the process of evacuating, or at a minimum, unable to take chilled-water service.