GULFPORT, MS Mississippi Power employees and outside crews were able to turn lights on in numerous parts of the companys service area Thursday, three days after the region was slammed by Hurricane Katrina.
Mississippi Power gives priority to hospitals, water and sewer treatment facilities, police, fire and other critical customers for the overall safety and well-being of the community at large. Individuals with critical medical needs should consider making contingency plans in case power outages last for an extended period of time.
We were able to restore service to small pockets along the Coast and around Hattiesburg, which were among the hardest hit areas, said Kurt Brautigam, company spokesman. It was a real lift for everyone to see some visible signs of success. We expect to see more progress today.
Power has been restored to approximately 28,000 of the companys 195,000 customers. Primary customers, such as hospitals, city water facilities and public safety organizations, have continued to be the main focus of efforts so far. Service has also been restored to the companys strategic pipeline customers, which are vital to the countrys supply of fuel.
More than 4,000 outside workers had arrived in the companys service area to assist with the effort, with another 3,000 scheduled to arrive within the next two days.
By the end of the day Thursday, we were able to energize 19 of our 56 substations in the Hattiesburg and Coast regions and will pick up more today, said Brautigam. That will allow us to begin re-energizing our distribution lines today, which provide service to the main arteries of many of the towns we serve. Theres still a long way to go, but today we should get to numerous commercial customers who can help speed up the recovery process.
New damage assessments indicate more than 750 miles of lines are on the ground across Mississippi Powers system. Nearly 5,000 poles will have to be replaced, and thousands more repaired. Estimates suggest that nearly 70 percent of the companys facilities suffered significant damage, especially in the hard-hit Coast and Pine Belt divisions. Some areas have been totally destroyed, and the company has estimated it may take up to four weeks to restore service to all customers who can receive it.
Its important to continue taking things one day at a time, said Brautigam. We continue to ask that our customers be patient and safe. Now that well begin seeing service restored, they need to be more aware of lines on the ground and laying on fences and trees. Please stay away from all lines.
We would also echo pleas from law enforcement agencies for people to stay off the roads if they dont need to be out. There are still many areas where travel is difficult, and weve got thousands of workers and vehicles in the area that need to be able to get around.
Customers who see dangerous situations are asked to notify public safety agencies or contact Mississippi Powers outage reporting line at 800-ITS-DARK (800-487-3275).
As always, safety is the first priority in any storm restoration effort. Here are some important storm-related tips for customers to consider:
SAFETY FIRST! Stay away from downed lines. Warn others to do the same. Beware of lines that are touching a vehicle. Stay away from the vehicle and the line. Do not drive over lines lying on the road, and do not drive under low hanging lines. Keep children and pets away from downed lines. Always assume a
downed power line is live. Do not attempt to remove tree limbs or anything else
caught in power lines. Call Mississippi Power at 800-ITS-DARK (800-487-3275) or a local law enforcement agency if downed lines are spotted.
Do not connect portable generators to your household electrical wiring. This can cause serious injury to you and to Mississippi Power employees working on the lines in your neighborhood. Connect only essential appliances such as freezers and refrigerators directly to the generator.
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, operate generators outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area that is away from air intakes to the home and protected from direct exposure to rain or snow. A good location is an open shed, under a canopy or a carport. Never use a portable generator indoors or in attached garages.
Most small gasoline powered generators purchased at home improvement stores are designed for appliances to be plugged directly into them rather than plugging the generator into the home`s wiring. Be sure to use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge that is adequate for the appliance load. If you need to connect a generator directly to your home wiring, it should be done by a qualified electrical contractor, and a switch to disconnect your home wiring from the utility system should be installed and used before connecting the generator.
Having a generator connected directly to household wiring without this switch can result in power from your generator feeding back into utility wires, creating a deadly threat to you, your neighbors and to repair crews.
If there is damage to your meter box or the pole on top of your meter box, you must first have an electrician make repairs before Mississippi Power can restore your service.
If there is flooding in your home or business, Mississippi Power may be unable to restore electric service until the building is inspected by city or county code officials.
Please be patient. Crews restoring service will work as fast as safety allows. Before neighborhood lines can be restored, Mississippi Power crews must first repair substations and larger lines that bring power to neighborhoods.
Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, serves 195,000 customers in 23 Southeast Mississippi counties.
With more than 4 million customers and nearly 39,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier super-regional energy company in the Southeast and a leading U.S. producer of electricity. Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states, a growing competitive generation company and a competitive retail natural gas business, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Visit the Southern Company Web site at www.southerncompany.com.