Republican Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey for the Central District speaks about broadband development at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Commissioner Brent Bailey said he has received numerous complaints from residents and businesses in central Mississippi regarding the delay in power restoration.
Mississippi has been plagued by severe weather resulting in large scale power outages across the state over the last week. In total, 138,000 customers have been without power for some period of time since June 10. More severe weather is expected later this week.
Currently, there is a heat advisory in place for Central Mississippi with temperatures expected to reach the low 90’s on Monday, but the heat index will make it feel more like temperatures are in the 100’s.
As of Sunday evening, Entergy reported 31,993 customers were still without power. For some, it could be Wednesday before the lights come on.
“These thunderstorms are relentless, however our storm teams and those here to assist with our restoration are also relentless,” said Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO, Entergy Mississippi. “We are now systematically and safely stepping through our switching, vegetation clearing and construction efforts to restore power to all our customers.”
Entergy reported 2,000 workers are currently engaged in restoring power. Their data found 185 poles damaged, over 216,000 feet of downed power lines, 135 damaged cross arms and 48 damaged transformers. On Sunday, the company said to expect these numbers to rise as additional damage is discovered.
The delay in power restoration struck a nerve with Central District Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey. On Monday, he expressed deep concern and disappointment over the response efforts.
“I am extremely frustrated and disappointed by Entergy Mississippi’s response to the recent storms,” Commissioner Bailey said. “The delay in restoring power has caused significant hardship for their customers and it is unacceptable. We expect EML to take swift action to address this issue and ensure that our communities are not left in the dark for prolonged periods of time in the aftermath of future severe weather events.”
Commissioner Bailey’s concerns center around what he said was an overall lack of preparation. He also noted the need for Entergy to outsource some critical services, vegetation management and Entergy’s decrease in field staff as major problems contributing to the continued outages. He said the lack of customer service is also contributing to problems with customer confidence.
Typically, when an outage occurs, Entergy provides an estimated restoration time for impacted customers. However, since the wave of storms on Friday, few, if any, restoration times have been provided for those still without power.
The Commissioner has called on the power company to provide more detailed reports regarding their response to the storms. Bailey said this should include an outline of steps they plan to take to improve overall preparedness, response and restoration plans.
“Our job as Commissioners is to hold our utilities and power providers accountable for providing affordable and reliable service,” Bailey said. “I will continue to monitor the situation closely, take all necessary steps to ensure that EML responds to my requests, and evaluate additional measures the Commission can pursue to improve utility performance and reliability.”
Entergy has committed $20,000 to the American Red Cross to support cooling centers within the service area. Cities like Jackson, who have been largely impacted by the outages, partnered with the Red Cross to set up cooling areas to charge devices and pick up ice over the weekend.
The power company has offered suggestions from the CDC for those who are still without power to protect themselves from the expected high temperatures this week. Those recommendations include drinking lots of fluids, wear loose and lightweight clothing, replace salt lost from sweating by drinking sports drinks, avoid spending too much time outside, wear sunscreen and use a generator safely if you have access to one.
If you are aware of down power lines, Entergy warns that any live wires can be deadly and tell customers to stay away. Call 1-800-9OUTAGE to report down or dangling lines. Also, do not attempt to trim trees or remove debris near power lines.