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Powering Through: Entergy's Rita Stories


It's been 10 years since Hurricane Rita hit, but Keith Coleman, senior engineering assistant in Lake Charles, remembers it well.
It's been 10 years since Hurricane Rita hit, but Keith Coleman, senior engineering assistant in Lake Charles, remembers it well.

Having just spent weeks in the New Orleans area helping with restoration after Hurricane Katrina’s devastating blow, Keith Coleman was eager to get home.

But just after arriving in his hometown of Sulphur, La., he found out he would have to get back in the car and leave. Hurricane Rita was coming.

So this former meter services employee – now a senior engineering assistant – evacuated with his family to his brother’s house in Oakdale, La.

As the massive Rita made its way onto land near the Louisiana/Texas border around 2:30 on the morning of Sept. 24, 2005, Coleman couldn’t sleep. In fact, he and his brother-in law, Warren Faulk (Entergy serviceman first class in Lake Charles), headed back to the Lake Charles/Sulphur area around 7:30 a.m. that same day because they wanted to arrive as soon as possible.

When they got to Lake Charles, all the bridges were closed. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that Coleman was able to make it to the company’s staging site at the West Calcasieu Arena – and because he had left so early, he was the first one there.

“It was so chaotic all over the area and hard to get around,” Coleman said. “But our staging site was still there. I waited a couple of hours before our crews safely arrived to get set up for work.”

But arrive they did. Coleman said he spent the first four days after Rita at Lake Charles’ Burton Coliseum helping with logistics at the staging site there. After that, he was asked to head into the field where he spent the next few weeks assisting with restoration.

“I worked with Harvey Ancelet (also an Entergy serviceman first class in Lake Charles who has since retired) the rest of the time and helped him and his crew with running lines and re-fusing line fuses,” Coleman said. “We were working with crews out of Oklahoma and were instrumental in restoring power to the Westlake-Maplewood area between Lake Charles and Sulphur.”

Coleman described returning from the devastation of Katrina to face the destruction Rita did to southwest Louisiana as surreal. But, he said, it was a true learning experience.

“I wasn’t expecting the kind of damage we got – I never expected the total devastation I had just seen from Katrina to happen at home,” he added. “And the hardest part was the effect I knew it would have on my two young girls.”

Coleman’s daughters – then one and five years old – were safely away with his wife, but because their Sulphur home was destroyed, he knew their lives wouldn’t be the same when they returned.

“The hardest part of the entire experience for me was when I had to call my wife and let her know the bad news about our home,” he said. “And because there wasn’t much left that was able to be saved, I knew it would be hard on our kids.”

But there was a silver lining. Coleman was able to save a few of his daughters’ toys and was able to rebuild thanks to the help of his family – his Entergy family.

“I couldn’t have gotten through it all without the support of my family here at Entergy,” he said. “Their help when it came time to rebuild my home was a gift from God – I didn’t have to worry at all. I am truly lucky to have family and friends like I do here at Entergy.”


Charlotte J. Cavell