Mississippi Power Rebuilding After Katrina - Day 3

GULFPORT, MS – Mississippi Power made significant strides toward rebuilding southern portions of its transmission system Wednesday, two days after its service area was slammed by Hurricane Katrina.

“Yesterday, we energized an essential 50-mile section of transmission lines that serves southern portions of our area,” said Kurt Brautigam, company spokesman. “That is the backbone of our system, and it should allow us to begin restoring service to customers in numerous areas today.”

Power has been restored to approximately 14,000 of the company’s 195,000 customers, mainly in the Meridian area and around Laurel. Primary customers, such as hospitals, water facilities and public safety organizations, have been the main focus of efforts so far. Several critical customers from the oil and gas industry have also been restored to service.

More than 4,000 outside workers had arrived in the company’s service area to assist with the effort, with another 1,000 scheduled to arrive in the next 48 hours. Those crews began repairing and rebuilding distribution lines that will now be able to be re-energized.

“We’re hoping to see noticeable results systemwide today, especially in the Coast and Pine Belt areas,” said Brautigam. “We’ve actually made a great deal of structural progress, but we want to see some lights turned on today, as we know our customers do.”

More than 700 miles of lines are on the ground across Mississippi Power’s system. At least 4,500 poles will have to be replaced, and thousands more repaired. Estimates suggest that nearly 70 percent of the company’s facilities suffered significant damage, especially in the hard-hit Coast and Pine Belt divisions. Some areas have been totally destroyed.

“We’re taking things one day at a time, and we hope this will be another good day,” said Brautigam. “We continue to ask that our customers be patient and safe. Now that we’ll begin seeing service restored, they need to be more aware of lines on the ground and lying 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 don’t need to be out. There are still many areas where travel is difficult, and we’ve 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 Power’s 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.