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System providing relief supplies after Ida

Go beyond the story: hear two SCM teammates share how the relief delivery came together

As responders continue to restore power following Hurricane Ida’s historic destruction, Southern Company is helping Louisiana communities rebuild hope along with electric infrastructure to get everyday life back to normal.

Never an easy proposition, the recovery in Ida’s wake has been made even more daunting by hot, humid conditions and short supplies of basic resources like clean water amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

To help, Southern Company last week began mobilizing shipments of supplies to aid relief efforts in hard-hit communities. System employees have delivered crucial items like bottled water, tarps, insect repellant and sunscreen. Recognizing the difficult conditions and unique challenges presented by the pandemic, the system has also provided disinfectant, face coverings, hand soap and sanitizer to help families and responders stay healthy and safe.

“Whenever our neighbors need assistance, we’re going to do whatever we can to help them,” said Tommy Castanedo, operations manager of Mississippi Power Supply Chain Management, who helped coordinate the recent relief-supply deliveries.

Two Mississippi Power tractor trailers full of Ida relief supplies last Friday made their way to an Entergy facility in Hammond, La., about 45 miles northwest of New Orleans. By Sunday morning, teammates had departed Alabama in two more Southern Company trucks to make deliveries at the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and an Entergy supply distribution site. Still another delivery is planned. The system has also joined local partnerships to support Louisiana’s recovery.

Farris Wallace, SCM’s inventory and risk management general manager, spearheaded the effort to bring resources together to get the much-needed help to communities. “What we think about is how we can care for others and how others would hopefully care for us.”

“It’s Safety First. It’s being your brother’s and sister’s keeper and making sure that we can take care of them,” Wallace said. “That includes being a good steward to the communities we serve as well as others in need. These supplies are a small amount relative to what the community needs but they are things that will make a significant impact on their recovery efforts.”

United Way of Southeast Louisiana President and CEO Michael Williamson said it “means the world to the community” that the supplies have been given at no cost “out of the generosity of someone else’s heart.”

“It started with Southern Company offering Entergy supplies (for the community), then we pulled in our friends from Rebuilding Together New Orleans and HandsOn New Orleans…and now we’re sitting in a warehouse with thousands of supplies that we’re going to get to the residents that need them,” Williamson said.

“We’re trying to get people the stuff that they need to get through to the next day. Every day gets them closer to their recovery,” he said.

Responders, including more than 600 from all three Southern Company electric operating companies, are working tirelessly to restore power and support the recovery. Among teammates eager to help were those who helped load the supplies and Mississippi Power’s Jason Roberts and Alabama Power’s Kevin Cleckler and Richard Moates who drove the relief-supply-laden trucks to Louisiana.

“You’re always there for us during blue skies, before a storm hits, and then you step up big when a storm happens,” Williamson said.

Historic Devastation

Ida made landfall on Aug. 29 – 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast – as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest ever to hit the United States. Ida plunged upwards of a million Louisiana and Mississippi homes and businesses into the dark, including the entire city of New Orleans.

For perspective on the scale of Ida’s destruction: the storm took down more utility poles than Katrina, Ike, Delta and Zeta combined.

After working to safely get the lights back on last week for more than 254,000 Southern Company system customers following Ida, company teams headed to Louisiana to support the recovery there.

Southern Company responders are among the 25,000 utility workers from 41 states that have come together under the industry’s mutual assistance program to restore electric service to more than half a million customers so far. Even with that significant progress, Entergy has cautioned Louisiana customers in the hardest-hit areas should expect extended outages lasting for weeks.