JEA crews in storm-ravaged Louisiana cross paths with Jacksonville native

Teams help restore power in Louisiana after Hurricane Laura

Teams help restore power in Louisiana after Hurricane Laura.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Having lived in Jacksonville until 2012, Traci Best is no stranger to JEA.

But Best, who now lives in Louisiana, was surprised to find the utility’s crews helping restore power in her neighborhood after Hurricane Laura pounded the state.

“It just felt really good,” Best told News4Jax. “It was like, ’Okay, we’re going to be okay.’”

RELATED | Lending a hand: Jacksonville agencies help in aftermath of Hurricane Laura

Despite having lived in Jacksonville, she said Laura’s devastation was unlike anything she experienced before.

“We should have left,” Best said. “I was relying on the street lights, watching the trees and then the power went out and it just went dark.”

The hurricane, which reached Category 4 strength, made landfall early Thursday morning. Its destruction killed several people and left thousands of others without power.

Once Best’s lights went out, she could only hunker down and listen to what was going on outside. But based on what she could hear, it didn’t sound promising.

“It was just a steady howling wind, and the gusts would get really loud,” she said. “It wasn’t like any wind I’ve heard before.”

When day broke, Best got her first look at the damage. While surveying her surroundings, she realized her neighborhood fared better than most. Her power had been knocked out by a falling tree.

But she was in for a surprise when utility crews showed up to help restore power in the area.

“We saw the trucks come down the street,” she told News4Jax. “My roommate — he’s from Jacksonville as well and he was like, ‘Did you see all those trucks?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have power!’ He’s like, ‘No. Did you see them?’ I looked and went, ‘Oh my god, it’s JEA!’”

Talk about a sight for sore eyes. JEA’s crews left Jacksonville on Wednesday and got right to work in Louisiana as soon as the hurricane had passed. But somehow they ended up on the street of a Jacksonville native.

Best said she didn’t want to disturb the men while they were working, but JEA said they’ve passed on Best’s story to the crews, letting them know how thankful she was that they were there to help.

JEA sent 31 crew members and 35 pieces of equipment to Louisiana to assist Lafayette Utilities there in power restoration efforts.