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Today is August 12, 2020

Editorial

Katrina: 15 years

By Michael Callahan

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan,
Executive Vice President/CEO
EPAs of Mississippi

Sometimes it’s hard to believe it was so long ago and other times it seems like just yesterday.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina roared through the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall on coastal Mississippi.

The devastation was historic.

At the time, I was serving as the Public Service Commissioner for the Southern District and was on the front lines, before, during and after the storm.

Rightfully so, much over the last 15 years has been made over the storm’s destruction in the urban areas of New Orleans in Louisiana and the cities that dot Mississippi’s coast.

But rural Mississippi was also hit especially hard with lost or damaged homes, a lack of communications and severe power outages.

Looking back at the numbers, I knew restoring power back to the state’s electric cooperative members was going to be a challenge, to say the least. But the electric cooperatives answered in a mighty way.

More than 71 percent, or 497,000 meters, lost power while all 26 electric cooperatives reported system outages. Nine systems lost all electric service and Cooperative Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative that serves 11 systems, lost power to 198 of its 240 substations.

The workload was daunting. The projected restoration time was up to six weeks. More than 10,000 emergency work crew members were involved in power restoration efforts, including employees from all of Mississippi’s 26 electric co-ops and work crews from 22 states. Between the patience of our member-owners and the hard work and dedication of the state’s cooperative employees, the power was restored.

On September 20, 2005, just three weeks after Katrina barreled through Mississippi, all power was restored to customers capable of safely receiving power.

More than 2,700 employees — as well as linemen from all over the country — worked 14 to 18-hour days, seven days a week.

Even though co-op employees had families back at home and some of those homes were damaged, without power, or flooded with water, linemen were on the job restoring power to rural Mississippi.

One of the Seven Cooperative Principals is Cooperation Among Cooperatives.

When cooperatives from other states sent work crews to Mississippi to help our members power up, it was a potent example of the sixth principle — “Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional

and international structures.”

When there were emergencies in those states that caused significant power outages, Mississippi’s linemen traveled there to help those out of state co-ops in the aftermath of their natural disasters.

This action is more than returning the favor. It’s Cooperation Among Cooperatives.

So, let’s take this month to give our dedicated workforce and the cooperative employees of other states another round of thanks for their tireless work ethic during the dark days after Katrina.

They are always there, working together, to bring the power to rural Mississippi.

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