OUR OPINION: Entergy’s outage response a missed connection

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 23, 2023

For a significant portion of Warren County residents reliant on Entergy for electricity, the last week has been a living hell.

That’s through no fault of our boots-on-the-ground utility workers. However, some blame lies on those at the higher level.

Entergy CEO Haley Fisackerly said in a letter sent Wednesday that Friday and Saturday’s severe weather was “a perfect storm.” He’s right — of course an EF-1 tornado was enough to topple the power grid around Vicksburg and Warren County given its existing issues.

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Most grievously, a lack of communication from the top contributed to an environment in which many residents did not know when they would have their power restored and were running out of options to stay safe in the sweltering heat. Last Saturday, Entergy even took down its typical green-and-red outage map in favor of a color-blocked number that did not provide the same level of accuracy.

Residents received messages saying their power was restored — while sitting in darkened rooms. The target kept moving farther and farther away as the power restoration estimates came and went.

For many in our community, especially the less fortunate, this resulted in the loss of perishable food items and medications that require refrigeration. People slept in their cars to get relief, or were forced to spend hundreds of dollars fueling generators if they were lucky enough to have one.

SNAP recipients who experienced power outages of more than six hours are able to apply for services to replenish the food supplies lost during the outage, but those not on government assistance are out of luck.

The linemen and contractor crews were working as fast as they could in a variety of conditions, spending time away from their families on Father’s Day and working long hours in the sweltering heat. They should be commended for that.

As we head into the bulk of Hurricane Season, the question still remains: if a single EF-1 tornado and 60 mph winds can cause this much damage in Warren County, how much worse will it be when a hurricane makes its way here?

Additionally, in how poor of a condition is our local power grid that this storm was able to render such damage?

Fisackerly, in concluding his letter, gave a typical corporate response for what Entergy is doing in the wake of this situation: “Once we have every customer back on, we will, as always, evaluate our processes to see where we can improve.”

For some in our area and other parts of the state, perhaps an “evaluation” is not enough — perhaps Entergy should reflect just how apologetic it is on our power bills.