Three Gulf Coast Utilities Report Progress

Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. -- Three utility companies that experience widespread Hurricane Katrina power outages reported progress Monday in restoring service to customers. But more than 800,000 customers still were without power, one week after Hurricane Katrina struck.

Entergy Corp. said it has restored service to more than half of the 1.1 million customers that lost power. Another 517,000 Entergy residential and business customers still have no power, mostly in Louisiana.

The Electric Power Association of Mississippi, a member-owned association akin to a credit union, said that more about 222,000 of its customers still remain in the dark.

Southern Co., whose utility subsidiaries serve customers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, said it restored power to about 44 percent of its Mississippi customers, leaving about 80,000 still to be reconnected.

Crews from more than 20 states and some Canadian provinces have joined local workers to bring power back to the hardest hit areas of Mississippi and Louisiana.

The companies say it could take months to restore service to some areas, especially those still underwater.

Restoration priorities typically go to areas of public safety such as hospitals, police stations and fire and rescue buildings. From there, companies try to resume the largest blocks of customers at one time.

Entergy made progress in restoring power to the New Orleans business and warehouse districts, which have several hotels, said company spokesman Arthur Wiese. At the same time, the chief of police in New Orleans called on all residents to leave the city on Monday, declaring it to be destroyed.

"We are working to get more lights on New Orleans proper," he said. "There aren't many relatively accessible areas and we are quickly running into the limits of what can be easily turn on in that area."

Entergy is also one of the displaced. It announced over the weekend plans to move most of its headquarters operations form New Orleans to Clinton, Miss., to a corporate campus where WorldCom Inc. used to be located before its 2002 collapse.

The four-building campus already serves as an encampment for lineworkers. Soon Entergy's executives will temporarily occupy several floors in two buildings, Wiese said.

Wiese said the company will distribute its 1,400-person, New Orleans workforce to offices in Houston and Beaumont, Texas; Little Rock, Ark., and Clinton.

"The big thing is who has got a house to go back to," Wiese said. "We will try to accommodate them in any way we can. If we can, we'll let some telecommute."