Insights > Hurricane Katrina Sets New Course for Entergy's Jim Booth
Hurricane Katrina Sets New Course for Entergy's Jim Booth
When Jim Booth, a Pennsylvania native, moved with his family to New Orleans in 2000, he looked forward to starting a new chapter near the Gulf. Booth took a job as an SAIC contractor working on Entergy's AM/FM outage system. "I really didn't know what to expect, and we just went on a leap of faith," said Booth.
So, Booth, his wife and his young son and daughter made the 1,200-mile trek south to the Gulf. Booth soon began to learn about the hurricane-prone gulf weather patterns and city's evacuation routes. "Being from up north, it was a shock." He remembers orders to get out of town. "Who is evacuating? The whole city?"
Over the next few years, evacuating and working remotely became a standard practice as Booth and his family repeatedly gathered up their most precious possessions and relocated once or twice each storm season. But even the most rigorous drill scenario could not have prepared them for the storm that would swallow their new hometown.
"Hurricane Katrina was so surreal. I had never seen devastation on that scale." Designated as an "away" storm responder, Booth was sent to work in Little Rock to support the outage-reporting part of the restoration effort.
"We worked 16-hour days for several weeks making sure the servers were running and providing outage reports to the storm teams. It was a crazy and exhausting time, but you knew you had to keep going until the job was done," said Booth.
Meanwhile, Booth's wife Sonya, their 14-year old son J.R. and 12-year old daughter Chelsea set up camp at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Little Rock. That's really where the tide began to change for Booth's future. "Everyone we came into contact with was so warm and welcoming to us," said Booth. "There were several families from New Orleans staying at the same hotel. The management even simulated a Mardis Gras experience to make us feel at home."
It was the temporary stay that would quickly become a permanent plan, thanks to the collective embrace of the capital city. "My wife experienced it more than I did," said Booth. "We would go out to eat at restaurants and people were paying for our dinners because they knew we were from New Orleans," added Booth. "One lady who worked at the hotel even invited us to her home to eat dinner. It was unbelievable."
After wrapping up his work on Katrina, Booth was offered the chance to move to a new job in Little Rock. "Even though we built a network of friends in New Orleans, the experience in Little Rock made the decision much easier," said Booth. "My kids, however, didn't react to the news as well. By this time, they were 14 and 12. New Orleans was the only home they had really ever known."
So, once again, they packed up their lives and headed to the natural state. In 2007, Booth had another transition when he became a full-time Entergy Arkansas employee as an electrical engineer with the distribution planning group. Since then, Booth has worked in several departments including distribution, transmission, and meter services. His latest job is the farthest departure from his engineering roots but allows him to incorporate much of his operational knowledge. "I'm a Senior Project Manager in the Entergy Business Development Group. I use my technical experience to help bring new growth projects to life in Arkansas, Mississippi and Northern Louisiana."
Booth's job covers a lot of Entergy's southern footprint, but his roots are unquestionably planted in Arkansas. "If you told me 20 years ago I would be living a full and blessed life in Arkansas I would have said 'no way.' But, now when people ask me where I'm from, I proudly say Little Rock is my home."
And as for those two reluctant teenagers? JR is getting a degree in criminal justice, and Chelsea recently completed her degree in business administration, both at Arkansas colleges. "They have grown to love it so much here; I don't think I could convince them to move back."