Insights > Powering Through: Entergy’s Katrina Stories
Powering Through: Entergy’s Katrina Stories
When you lose everything you own, it is hard to focus on the needs of others. But that is just what Entergy employees had to do following the devastation of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
Kenny Labat knows firsthand how that feels. He lost his home, both cars and most of his belongings. But he went to work the day after the storm and kept moving forward.
“When you work in a job such as this one, it’s hard to get your personal belongings together even though you know a storm is coming because there isn’t a place to put everything you own that is out of harm’s way,” Labat said. “So my wife and I parked one car on the highest point near us, she took the other car and as many pictures and video memories as she could carry and we both left with some money and enough clothes for seven days.”
Labat said he headed to downtown New Orleans from his local office in nearby Chalmette to ride out the storm with the core team at the Hyatt Regency hotel, while his wife and family headed east toward the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But, as history would tell, the storm also decided to veer east just before its Aug. 29 landfall.
“My wife, my stepchildren and her father and mother were stranded in a hotel east of Biloxi for a week with no electricity, water or food,” Labat said. “It was six days before I had any contact with my wife, but they were okay. We lost our other car in the storm surge, but as long as they were fine, that didn’t matter.”
Labat said his first assignment immediately after the storm was to help coordinate crews for restoration near Reserve, which is located in St. John the Baptist Parish just west of the New Orleans metro area. He did that for four days and then was reassigned to direct crews in and around New Orleans. He then assisted with restoring power to the pumping stations on the 17th Street Canal, so that water could be pumped out of the city. Labat was instrumental in the success of that effort.
It wasn’t until three weeks after Katrina destroyed the area that he made it back to Chalmette. He worked alongside now-retired supervisor Glenn Jallans, fellow employees and many other workers who came in to help with restoration in the devastated area. They succeeded, but it wasn’t easy.
Today, Labat said it is hard for him to think about the total devastation Hurricane Katrina left behind – or the fact that he and his family lost everything. But, like his former co-workers, he is focused on the future.
“It is still upsetting to remember how Katrina changed our lives, but we keep moving on,” Labat said. “It’s a rough road to travel when you lose everything, but we are very fortunate.”