A rash of electrical power outages this year in Shenandoah from regional provider Entergy Texas has caused concerns from residents and city officials.
The concerns prompted the company to send a senior engineering specialist to the Wednesday Shenandoah City Council meeting to explain to locals why the outages are happening and what the company is doing about it.
No action was taken on the presentation, but Troy DeBeaumont, the engineering supervisor of the West Region of Entergy Texas, Inc. fielded heat from irritated residents who demanded something be done to fix the rampant issue they claim is devaluing homes and causing problems for folks who use their residences for home offices.
One of those complaining was a local man named David McMullen, who used several minutes of the public comment portion of the meeting to chastise the company and demand answers for the power outages, which some said have numbered in the dozens since the start of the year.
“I want (Entergy) to tell us what has happened in Shenandoah. The truth is, this is affecting everyone,” he said.
DeBeaumont seemed surprised as the criticism, but told audience members and the council present — members Ted Fletcher and Mike McLeod were absent — that Entergy officials take the outages seriously and are working on a number of improvement projects and measures to try to reduce the frequency of outages, which have lasted according to some from a few minutes to an hour or longer.
“We are hearing this concern quite a lot across our service area,” DeBeaumont said. “We are in the process of building a new substation transformer at the intersection of (Texas) 242 and Interstate-45.”
As for why the power outages are happening so frequently, DeBeaumont detailed numerous primary reasons for the outages, including what he described as “public inflicted” outages — when a person does something to interrupt power — weather related causes, which was focused on lightning strikes and damage caused by high winds, as well as animal caused outages, which includes squirrels and snakes that sneak into power infrastructure.
Other causes included older equipment that may be malfunctioning, water damage to underground systems and storage areas and even the release of mylar balloons. DeBeaumont said an early June outage in the area that left about 450 customers without power was caused by a release of mylar balloons that became entangled in overhead power lines near the Mercedes Benz of The Woodlands dealership.
On Thursday, Edna Canales, a representative from the Mercedes Benz of The Woodlands dealership and executive assistant to the dealership’s general manager, said the dealership has never used balloons in any sort of event or promotion and she had no clue who released them.
“We’ve never released balloons. We’ve never had balloons,” Canales said. “This is the first I’ve heard about this. We’re are unaware of this incident or any complaints.”
On Thursday, Kacee Kirschvink, a senior communications specialist with Entergy Texas, said company officials still do not know what entity or person was responsible for the balloon-caused outage in early June, but that the mylar balloons released originated from an area near the dealership.
“I know we had an outage related to a balloon that was released near the dealership, but I don’t know if actually came from the dealership,” she said in an email. “We occasionally have balloons that cause outages — usually from various celebratory events like graduations, births, etc…”
The main cause of the outages in the last year or so, DeBeaumont explained, was “public inflicted” outages, which he primarily blamed on what he described as rogue contractors who had been hired by companies trying to capitalize on new 5G internet infrastructure, as well as animals. The contractors, he added, are doing what he described as “underground boring” work to install the wiring for the new 5G services, however when they do the work, they often times cut existing electrical infrastructure, causing an outage.
“A lot of them don’t have permits,” DeBeaumont claimed of the unidentified contractors or companies.
As for other solutions to the power outages, DeBeaumont said Entergy officials have a five-year program to trim back tree branches, shrubs and other plants to prevent them from damaging power lines; the company is working ways to reconfigure how power gets to Shenandoah, possibly utilizing nearby infrastructure in The Woodlands; is working to inspect more of its facilities, notably underground stations and tunnels; along with the new substation north of Shenandoah.
The company has also formed an informal task force with The Woodlands Township, the San Jacinto River Authority and CenterPoint to collaborate better on solving power problems and also reducing power interruptions from the 5G boring work.