Many of the 2.7 million customers in the South who were without power Aug. 30 because of Hurricane Katrina could remain in the dark for a month or more, say utility officials in the region.

Entergy Corp., which serves New Orleans and southern Louisiana, is just beginning to assess damage, using helicopters to fly the lines. Company officials acknowledge at least 124 downed transmission lines and 150 nonfunctional transmission substations. Its underground grid in New Orleans was flooded and probably contaminated.

Entergy shut down its 1,075-MW Waterford-3 nuclear powerplant 20 miles west of New Orleans and another gas and oil-fired plant near the city before the storm hit. Officials cannot predict when they will come back on line.

Katrina was the worst storm Entergy has endured, knocking out power to more than 1 million customers. Mississippi Power Co.’s 5-unit, 1,051-MW coal, gas and oil-fired Plant Watson in Gulfport flooded and shut down after the storm. All 195,000 customers of the utility, which serves the state’s coastal region, lost power. A spokesman for its parent, Southern Co., Atlanta, says it will take days to assess the system’s full damage.

"Mississippi Power has suffered the worst catastrophe in our company’s history," says Anthony Topazi, president and CEO. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) says at least 1 million people are without power. Telephone and cell phone service is out across the state.

Alabama Power Co. outages are not as severe, but damage to its transmission infrastructure is much greater, says a utility spokeswoman. The utility had 637,000 customers without power after the storm, but restored service to 16,000 by rerouting power around damaged transmission lines. It did not have an initial damage assessment at press time.

As Katrina moved northward, it knocked out power to more than 325,000 customers in the Tennessee Valley, who are served by small distributors that get power from the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA has eight 161-kV and 46- kV transmission lines down. The Alabama Rural Electric Association reported 150,000 without power on Aug. 30. "We have many miles of poles to put back," a spokesman says.

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