Life Beyond Katrina: Mississippi Power's mission to turn the lights back on following the storm

Life Beyond Katrina: Mississippi Power's mission to turn the lights back on following the storm

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Following Hurricane Katrina, all 200,000 Mississippi Power customers in the region were left in the dark.

"We felt like getting the power back was going to begin the process of giving hope back to the Coast," said Anthony Wilson, Executive VP of Operations for Mississippi Power.

The mission: to give hope was the driving force behind Mississippi Power's workers even through the most trying times.

"We had over 200 of our employees that lost their homes," said Wilson. "All 200 of those people were back at work the next day getting the lights on."

As many as 12,000 workers from all over the nation arrived in South Mississippi to help. Their efforts had to be coordinated in an alternate location after the company's operations center in downtown Gulfport flooded.

"We were able to get in one small conference room and began to gather as the storm directors and direct the restoration of the system," said Steve Craig, Transmission General Manager for Mississippi Power.

It took crews less than two weeks to restore power everywhere possible.

"Every customer who could actually receive service took service within 12 days," said Wilson.

Once the lights were on for others, those responsible for repairing the power lines started repairing their own lives.

"I think most of us went home, grabbed our families and began putting our lives back together," said Craig.

Ten years later, with a new operations Center in place, Mississippi Power believes its in better position now if another storm strikes.

"This is one of the more state of the art storm centers I've been in," said Wilson.

From the storm center, if necessary, every aspect of the restoration effort will be organized.

"The logistics team is actually responsible for making sure 12,000 people in the Katrina example have a place to sleep, to eat, we're able to move them from one place to another," said Wilson. "It is a massive task and really I don't believe there's one replicated short of the military."

One of the most important reasons for building the new operations building, the safety for everyone involved.

"It allows us to focus on what we're here to do and that's to get the lights on," said Ronda Turan, Senior Operations Assistant for Mississippi Power.

Following the storm -- Mississippi Power had 25,000 customers whose service couldn't be repaired because they lost their homes or were damaged to a point they couldn't receive service.

Wednesday night, WLOX News is airing a special focused entirely on Life Beyond Katrina, and taking a look at how far our coast has come in the last decade. Tune in at 7 on WLOX ABC, or catch the hour special on Saturday at 10:35 p.m. on WLOX CBS.

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