Gustav’s memories remain

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 6, 2009

It hardly seems it was over a year ago that Hurricane Gustav blew through the area, snapping electrical lines and leaving much of the Miss-Lou in the dark.

Until age pulls the images from my memory, I’ll never forget that week.

Earlier in the day, the weather didn’t appear to indicate our area would receive any bad effects of the storm.

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In our newsroom, the staff had started to build the newspaper pages a bit earlier than normal — just in case.

But by mid-afternoon, little bad weather had reached the area and the front-page article — which was being updated by the hour — largely said that the storm was a non-event so far.

All of the early preparation seemed like an unnecessary move until early that evening when, after the lights went out the headline “So far, so good” had to be quickly changed to reflect the rapidly deteriorating circumstances.

The next few hours included a combination of watching our news team report in the dark, struggling to connect with a nearby printing press whose facility had electrical power and locating a place with a solid Internet connection in order to transmit pages to an alternate press facility.

The last proved the most difficult. We eventually wound up borrowing an Internet connection from the good folks at the local Entergy building.

And our neighbors to the north in Vicksburg helped get our newspaper printed that morning, a bit later than usual, but late was our best option.

By the time the newspapers arrived the morning after the storm, our great independent carriers were lining up at the back of our building to help deliver the newspapers.

In addition, some neighbors had walked over to get a copy of the newspaper so they could find out what had gone on overnight.

Working at a community newspaper often yields its fair share of criticism. But all of the grief we take subsides when we suddenly see how our readers enjoy what we do each day.

To have someone walk to your office to get a copy of your product the morning after a storm hit is pretty special indeed.

As much as the work of a few selected folks was amazing on the first night, it was the great work that our staff did over the next few days that still amazes me most.

Our “go-to” guy when something breaks is David Gaudé with Conrad Anderson, who has been fixing things at The Democrat for as long as I can remember. He quickly helped us rig up enough generator power to operate a few computers to allow our newsroom to function.

After circulation director Sam King amazingly managed to locate enough gasoline to fuel our generators for a couple of days, we knew we would be OK for several days.

By the second night after the storm, we were getting into a groove. “Who needs electricity?” we joked.

But after a day or two our building became a damp, warm cave — not a terribly nice place to work.

Even a year later, I’m still extremely proud of all of our staff and how they managed to face the adversity of working under the gun — and in the dark.

I hope and pray that we don’t have another such storm any time soon, but if one comes, I am confident our team will again rise to the challenge.

Gustav’s arrival also marked the week Julie and I got married.

It doesn’t seem like it’s been a year, but the calendar says it is. Time flies, when you’re having fun. Happy anniversary, Julie, and thanks for a great first year together.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or