Hurricane Rita roared ashore near the Texas/Louisiana state line early on Sept. 24, slamming the refinery towns of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, as well as Lake Charles, Louisiana, with 120 mph. winds. Some 3 million people fled Rita’s path, expecting major destruction of the kind visited on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina earlier this month.
But while Rita packed a substantial punch, especially along the coast, Cinergy’s operations came out much better than expected - as did much of the region.
A number of employees of Cinergy Solutions, which provides power to BP’s Texas City Refinery, were prepared to remain as a hurricane crew. As Rita strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico, however, BP changed tactics and closed down its operation. The Texas City Hurricane Crew duly shut down and deenergized its site, blocking in all hydrocarbon and hazardous chemical streams and opening large electrical feeds. They were then able to join in the general evacuation toward Dallas with the aid of a Cinergy helicopter dispatched for the purpose.
But by mid-morning Saturday, all were headed back to Texas City to find little damage when they arrived. Cinergy Solutions sites in Shreveport, Louisiana, Jackson, Mississippi, and Hot Springs, Arkansas, also weathered the storm well. A Hurricane Rita Recovery Team, organized in Cincinnati to roll south with trailers, supplies and equipment, was able to cancel travel plans and return supply trucks to their providers.
"I couldn’t ask for a better result given what we were expecting Friday and earlier," says Steve Harkness, president, Energy Services.
Houston office returning to normal
Key employees of Cinergy’s Marketing & Trading’s Houston office have begun their return to Houston. They have been working in Cincinnati since Sept. 23 as a precaution against the major destruction Rita was expected to deliver in the Houston area.
"Our first thought was for the safety of our people and their families, and I can't say enough about the professionalism and efforts of many, many people across Cinergy to make sure that happened," says Michael Cyrus, Cinergy executive vice president and CEO of the Commercial Business Unit (CBU)
"We developed plans for just such a situation and under the real stress and threat of Hurricane Rita hitting the Houston area, our teams executed great. Almost immediately following the storm, our people were moving back to access and repair damage in our facilities and restart our offices."
Assistance with restoration
In the meantime, Entergy Corp. is fielding about 7000 line workers in an effort to get customers back in power. Throughout the Gulf region more than 1.2 million customers were without power on Monday, including some 211,000 customers still out due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Cinergy line and support crews, who have been helping restore power to Gretna, La., were asked to break camp Monday morning and travel to Sulphur, La., just west of Lake Charles, an area where damage is especially bad. These 125 employees, who have been working in Louisiana since mid-September, represent Cinergy’s "third wave" of help, after 103 workers helped restore power in Florida in August and 200 more went south on Sept. 3 to help in Gretna. A "fourth wave" of 130 will relieve the current group by Oct. 1.
Cinergy employees and Foundation donate over $240,000 to hurricane relief
Because of an overwhelming response from employees to matching grants from the Cinergy Foundation and Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, the Foundation agreed to match all employee donations to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army for Katrina relief. As of Sept. 20, employees had donated a total of $111,000, which exceeded the original matching amount of $25,000 from the Foundation and an additional matching challenge of $10,000 personally from Jim Rogers. With the additional matching challenge for all donations, Cinergy and its employees will exceed $240,000. Other company executives have also offered challenge grants within their organizations, and employee contributions under those challenges will be included in the total matched by the Foundation. Many departments have also hosted fundraising activities. "The response of Cinergy's people is truly amazing," says Joe Hale, President of the Cinergy Foundation. "In addition to supporting our employees in Louisiana assisting Entergy in restoring service, employees have stepped forward to assist in this most devastating of natural disasters. We salute all who have contributed."