Katrina Tragedy Overshadows Energy Bill Triumph

Steven Brown, Editor in Chief

When you write an editorial column for a magazine that comes out every other month-like this one does-you occasionally run into a situation where you have too many interesting options to write about. That’s exactly what happened to me in the time between publication of our last issue in early August and this issue.

Back in mid-August, it was pretty obvious to me I was going to focus this column on the newly signed Energy Policy Act of 2005. The long-awaited passage of that bill should have a tremendous impact-and, most likely, a good tremendous impact-on the industry we cover in this journal. For a quick glimpse at the Energy Bill’s potential impact on the transmission business, see pages 20-24 of this issue.

Then, in mid-September, I had an inkling to write about the unfortunate workers at LADWP who cut through some wires they weren’t supposed to cut through, resulting in an outage that left 750,000 homes and businesses without power for about an hour and a half. Initial alarmist reports in the general media attempted to suggest that the outage might have been a terrorist act, but it turned out to be human error. The LADWP workers, ironically enough, were installing an automated system meant to improve system reliability when they made the unfortunate cut.

But, as important to the industry as the former event was, and as unusual and interesting as the latter event was, both stories pale in comparison to the disaster Hurricane Katrina wrought in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Katrina put 80 percent of New Orleans underwater and turned tens of thousands of residents into refugees. Katrina’s death toll was still being calculated at the time of this writing.

This unprecedented disaster took an enormous toll on the electric power system in the gulf states. In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, all of Mississippi Power’s 195,000 customers were left without power. Katrina was the second worst storm in Alabama Power’s history, in terms of customer outages, but the utility’s worst in terms of damage to infrastructure. At its worst point, Entergy had a total of 660 transmission line-miles, 263 substations and 1,560 distribution feeders out of service due to Hurricane Katrina.

Those are just three of the utility companies hardest hit by the storm. The restoration effort from those three utilities and others has been hugely successful. Daily reports on Entergy’s and Mississippi Power’s websites showed thousands and thousands of customers being restored each day.

While the utility restoration efforts have been remarkable, much work remains to be done in the areas hardest hit by Katrina-both in repairing the material damage and in helping survivors return to some state of normalcy.

In addition to the work being done by the American Red Cross in response to Hurricane Katrina, Entergy has established a fund to help its customers and employees who were affected. Called the Power of Hope, the fund was set up to help disaster victims rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Katrina. Entergy launched the fund with an initial $1 million contribution. Others have also stepped up to help fund the Power of Hope, and, at the time of this writing, the fund’s total stood at more than $2.8 million.

More information about the Power of Hope fund can be found on its website: www.fndmidsouth.org/Power_of_hope.htm.

Information about donating through the American Red Cross can be found at www.redcross.org. ࢝®à¢®

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