Mississippi Power made significant strides toward rebuilding southern portions of its transmission system Wednesday, two days after its service area was slammed by Hurricane Katrina.

"Yesterday, we energized an essential 50-mile section of transmission lines that serves southern portions of our area yesterday," said Kurt Brautigam, company spokesman. "That is the backbone of our system, and it should allow us to begin restoring service to customers in numerous areas today."

Power has been restored to approximately 14,000 of the company's 195,000 customers, mainly in the Meridian area and around Laurel. Primary customers, such as hospitals, water facilities and public safety organizations, have been the main focus of efforts so far. Several critical customers from the oil and gas industry have also been restored to service.

More than 4000 outside workers had arrived in the company's service area to assist with the effort, with another 1000 scheduled to arrive in the next 48 hours. Those crews began repairing and rebuilding distribution lines that will now be able to be re-energized.

"We're hoping to see noticeable results systemwide today, especially in the Coast and Pine Belt areas," said Brautigam. "We've actually made a great deal of structural progress, but we want to see some lights turned on today, as we know our customers do."

More than 700 miles of lines are on the ground across Mississippi Power's system. At least 4500 poles will have to be replaced, and thousands more repaired. Estimates suggest that nearly 70% of the company's facilities suffered significant damage, especially in the hard-hit Coast and Pine Belt divisions. Some areas have been totally destroyed.

"We're taking things one day at a time, and we hope this will be another good day," said Brautigam. "We continue to ask that our customers be patient and safe. Now that we'll begin seeing service restored, they need to be more aware of lines on the ground and lying on fences and trees. Please stay away from all lines.

Entergy Mississippi has also begun the restoration process following the most destructive storm in company history.

"Hurricane Katrina was devastating, and we are reminding our customers that the storm is not over," said Carolyn Shanks, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi. "In addition to loss of life, it has caused tremendous damage to our electrical network that will take weeks to restore. We sincerely appreciate everyone's patience as we work to get their lives back to normal." Katrina had a significant impact in almost all of Entergy Mississippi's 45-county service territory in western Mississippi. At the storm's peak, more than 300,000 of the company's 410,000 customers were without power.

"We are assessing damage to our network and trying to restore several facilities critical to public safety, such as water systems and hospitals," said Shanks. "When our assessments, which could last several days, are complete we can fully engage our restoration work force."

Entergy has more than 1200 linemen and support staff in Mississippi working to restore service to customers. Entergy crews and contractors are prepared to work long hours after the storm passes, restoring service to customers as quickly and as safely as possible. However, resources are limited because utilities in Florida that have already been hit by Hurricane Katrina have pulled together a large work force that Entergy normally would draw from.