Mississippi Power linemen were crucial to Camille recovery 50 years ago

Mississippi Power linemen were crucial to Camille recovery 50 years ago
Ed Blakeslee, center, was one of three retired Mississippi Power employees that spoke Friday at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Veterans of Hurricane Katrina remember applauding at the sight of power company trucks as they rolled in to restore power.

Fifty years ago, linemen from Mississippi Power and other companies were equally welcomed as heroes in the days and weeks after that devastating storm.

The work of those linemen was remembered Friday at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum’s Camille at 50 lecture series.

Things were different then, said retired engineer Ed Blakeslee. Linemen didn’t have bucket trucks. They climbed poles, and they would actually work during the storm.

“I was out in the storm all night long” in Laurel, Blakeslee said.

“I remember a 12,000 volt line hit the ground behind me in the middle of the storm, alive, hot. I remember jumping on the running board of a truck and telling the line foreman that it’s too dangerous, we’ve got to get everybody off the poles," he said.

It took them four days to restore power in Laurel. Then his crew went to Biloxi, where he worked along Oak Street and along “the strip.”

Blakeslee remembered a slab near where Gus Stevens’ club used to be that still had a toilet standing.

“Somehow that toilet had made it through the storm, and everybody was taking pictures of that toilet," he said.

Blakeslee worked as a volunteer with the company after Hurricane Katrina, and he said you could tell how much better prepared they were for that storm than Camille.

He cited better communications and bucket trucks.

“I think we’re much more prepared now and I think that showed up in Katrina,” he said.

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