It’s good to be out of the eye of the storm

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It sure was nice to be cool and dry this weekend.

That wasn’t the case about this time three years ago, and though you may not remember, those are days I’ll never forget.

Hurricane Gustav roared through the Miss-Lou late on Sept. 1, 2008, a Monday.

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High winds and heavy rains sent tree limbs tumbling. But just like always, power lines were ready and waiting to catch the falling limbs, breaking their fall but sacrificing our electricity.

Entergy officials confirmed late Monday that every major transmission line that fed Natchez was down. Originally, the power outlook was grim.

Things got gradually better for most of Adams County as the week progressed and electricity was restored, patch-by-patch.

Unfortunately, for the staff of The Natchez Democrat, our office was among the last in town to be reconnected to the power grid.

Our staff spent the better part of four days working from a hot, sticky, air-conditioning-less building. Two small generators powered four or five computers and our printer. We huddled together in a conference room — since it was easier to power up just one room, not the whole building — in the dark for most of the week.

The newspaper had to be printed in neighboring Brookhaven and Vicksburg, adding an extra layer of stress and travel for our staff.

As if the stress of the situation weren’t enough, things were a bit more complicated for two of us.

Kevin and I were married Sept. 6, 2008 — six days after Gustav came to town and one day after the lights came back on at The Democrat.

It was a date we weren’t sure we’d make late on the night of Sept. 1 after we’d weaved our way through a storm-ravaged Natchez in search of a building — fittingly, Entergy’s office — with enough power to get the first night’s newspaper e-mailed to an out of town printer.

Late last week, we found ourselves reliving some of the same hurricane memories.

This time, though, we were in an air-conditioned office, with lights blaring and no place in particular we had to be.

Hurricane Irene — though not nearly as bad as the TV news media hyped her to be — still managed to cause us some stress Friday.

The company that owns our newspaper also owns four community newspapers along the eastern coastline — three in North Carolina and one in Virginia.

With the storm eyeing our friends to the north, we did what we could from afar to help them prepare for the worst. It’s always good to have a friend with a good Internet connection and a brain fully fueled by air conditioning when yours is not. We learned that during Katrina and Gustav.

Thankfully, their staffs and buildings fared OK. All four towns saw significant damage, but not what was originally feared.

As we celebrated the week before our third anniversary by watching non-stop Irene coverage, I was thankful that the storm wasn’t headed for the gulf — this time anyway.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or