After restoring power to all of its customers who could accept power on Saturday, Sept. 10, Southern Company has been releasing contract crews to help Entergy and other neighboring utilities restore electric service in the Gulf Coast region.
"Although our coastal customers in the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and, in particular, Mississippi, suffered the worst storm damage in the company's history in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we have completed the process of restoring power to those customers whose homes and businesses can accept power," said Southern Company Chairman and CEO David Ratcliffe. "Our thoughts are with our customers and those of our neighboring utilities who continue to experience the damage of Hurricane Katrina.
"Facing unprecedented damage to its distribution system, Southern Company and neighboring utilities along the Gulf Coast region continue to face dangerous and difficult working conditions in Mississippi and southeast Louisiana. Our goal is to assist our neighbors, in any way we can, through this difficult restoration process."
Katrina left 971,000 of Southern Company's 4.2 million customers without power. Mississippi Power's entire customer base of 195,000 was included in those outages. In 12 days, every Southern Company customer whose home or business could accept power was restored to service.
"Last September, Hurricane Ivan took out power to 1.6 million of our customers in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. We called that the worst storm in the history of our company. Although our outage numbers were higher with Ivan, Katrina was a far more destructive storm than the outage numbers indicate," Ratcliffe said.
Storm preparation helped Southern Company recover in just 13 days after Ivan struck the company's entire Southeastern footprint, and in just 12 days after Katrina hit.
"Our employees did a great job of planning and preparing for this storm, as they do for every storm. We were ready to begin our damage and outage assessments and the process of restoration as soon as Katrina had passed.
"We also received great help from thousands of workers from many utilities, who did a great job. They came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Alabama, New Hampshire, Georgia, Florida and Canada. We also appreciate the patience of our customers, who have suffered terrible losses," Ratcliffe said.
"We were extremely fortunate to have our SouthernLINC Wireless system available to us for communicating with our employees and crews working along the Coast. In many cases, SouthernLINC Wireless was the only communications source available. Within days of the storm nearly 2,500 phones were activated for use by government agencies and public service entities.
"I also am very proud of our employees for their assistance in helping co- workers who suffered personal loss during this time. We activated our Southern Company Family Services program after the storm hit. More than 200 employees and volunteers from across the Southern Company system went to Mississippi to relieve Mississippi Power employees from having to deal with personal tasks, such as emergency repairs and clean-up of their homes, while working their disaster assignments. This enabled us to get the lights back on faster.
"These employees are doing everything from removing trees from homes and driveways and salvaging employees' personal belongings, to babysitting and laundry. It is simply amazing to see the way we've all pulled together to help our fellow employees get through this tragedy.
"We also have had tremendous results from our Employee Relief Effort, where employees are able to make tax deductible contributions to help their fellow employees. These donations will help cover losses that insurance does not cover and will pay for day-to-day expenses during the recovery period," Ratcliffe said.
Southern Company also transported temporary vehicles to employees who lost theirs in the storm, and temporary housing for those whose homes were rendered uninhabitable by Katrina. Employees with available housing are offering it to co-workers as well.
"We have for many years conducted business by a set of values that we call Southern Style. In a nutshell, Southern Style is unquestionable trust, superior performance and total commitment. It is evident during times like this that these values extend beyond the workplace," Ratcliffe said.