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LPG Spotlight: Lake Arthur Butane & Propane

June 8, 2020 By    
Photo: Lake Arthur Butane & Propane

Following Hurricane Rita in 2005, Monlezun developed a plan to ease employee fatigue, anxiety and communication fallout for future hurricanes. Photo: Lake Arthur Butane & Propane

When Hurricane Rita hit southwest Louisiana in September 2005, propane retailer Lake Arthur Butane & Propane had to think fast.

Hurricane Rita was one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, with top sustained winds of 175 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The hurricane made landfall in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, bringing winds, rain and tornadoes to communities stretching from Texas to Florida, according to the Florida Institute of Technology.

Lake Arthur Butane & Propane, founded in 1945, has two locations in southwest Louisiana, and its communities were directly impacted by Hurricane Rita. When Louisiana got news of a Category 5 hurricane forming in the Gulf of Mexico, the propane retailer got straight to work.

In the days preceding landfall, Louisiana rice farmers were desperately trying to harvest and dry their crops. Dominique Monlezun, company owner and president, says that his employees worked long days and through one entire night to service the farmers’ grain bins.

When the hurricane hit, employees were working extremely long hours. Not only were they servicing customers whose electricity had gone out, but their own houses had no power, either. As a result, their houses were hot, leaving them with little ability to rest before their next shifts.

Monlezun says some employees’ families had evacuated their homes, so his employees were not only fatigued and anxious, but unable to communicate with their loved ones.

In the aftermath, Monlezun developed a plan to ease the fatigue, anxiety and communication problems in the case of future hurricanes.

“We lived through a lot of changes rapidly hour to hour,” Monlezun says. “It got me thinking about how we were not prepared for a disaster like that. After working closely with the staff and our employees, we developed a program in case – God forbid – that happens again.”

Fifteen years later, Monlezun and his staff feel much more prepared.

Monlezun, whose father founded the company, sat down with each employee, listened to their concerns and took notes.

“My dad always told me to go to the people who do it every day and get their opinions, the drivers and servicemen, and you’ll get a whole new perspective,” he says.

Dominique Monlezun headshot

Monlezun

Monlezun says one of the biggest challenges during hurricane season is not knowing the exact route a hurricane will take, so it’s important to be prepared at all times.

When there is news of a hurricane forming in the Gulf, drivers are now instructed to take their trucks home with them. Each driver has designated service routes to reach customers in case communications are interrupted by the storm.

The retailer’s trucks run on diesel, so Monlezun ensured that diesel tanks with battery-operated pumps were placed throughout the area, in case drivers needed to fill up while on a route.

“I wanted to get away from electricity and still be able to function,” Monlezun says.

Monlezun says the biggest thing he has learned from the experience is to be understanding with his employees.

“As I was sitting down with those employees, I needed to take a step back and be mindful that their being was not 100 percent in my office. Half of themselves were with their families,” Monlezun says. “I learned a lot of patience from that.”

For other retailers who are preparing for the 2020 hurricane season, Monlezun encourages owners to communicate not only with their drivers, but also their suppliers and vendors. He also advises to assess what has gone wrong in past seasons and prevent it from happening again.

“It takes time. You can’t do it overnight,” Monlezun says. “I just started taking notes on what we were doing wrong. We all make mistakes; I just don’t want to make them a second time. That’s the way you improve – you adjust and change.”


Year founded: 1945
Founder: Lee J. Monlezun Sr.
Owner: Dominique Monlezun
Headquarters: Lake Arthur, Louisiana

About the Author:

Carly McFadden is associate editor at LP Gas Magazine. She is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and a native of Cleveland, Ohio. McFadden can be reached at cmcfadden@northcoastmedia.net.

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