By PAUL SIMS
From a local business passing out free ice cream to people helping each other out as they shopped, Starkville seemed to fare well in Wednesday night’s power outage.
Cold Stone Creamery on Highway 12 offered customers free ice cream while the electricity was off. Passersby noted the line of people waiting for the cool treat trailed out the building, down the walkway and out to the street around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Curt Crissey, owner of Brewski’s on Highway 12, shut down his two Cotton District-area stores – Coconuts on University Drive and Down the Hatch on Russell Street.
During the weather, Crissey asked his staff to stay home.
“As we were closing those other stores, those who wanted to work came to Brewski’s to help,” he said.
People needed gas, but the store couldn’t sell it due to the outage, Crissey said. A number of people “did not understand you cannot operate pumps without electricity,” he said.
Crissey said his staff transacted business through using hand-held calculators and flashlights.
Customers used flashlight features on their smartphones and monitored weather conditions also, he said.
Those who shopped at the store were buying “flashlights, stuff to kind of camp out for the night,” Crissey said.
“It was an A-plus for the citizens of Starkville,” he said. The people who shopped were “comforting to each other, met new people, had time to talk to the person next to them. They kind of grouped around and did a good thing,” Crissey said. “They were helping each other out. They were very patient, very congenial so I was very well pleased the way it turned out that night.”
Crissey said he shut down the store around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Bernadette Agnew, the kitchen manager at Grumpy’s on Highway 182 said: “As the shifts were changing the lights went out and so we just went ahead on and closed.” But as of 4 p.m. Thursday, the restaurant’s staff had encountered non-stop business since 10:30 a.m., she said.
At least two businesses ran using backup generators during the outage.
Colleen Carbott, spokesperson for Lowe’s, said the Starkville store operated on a generator. She said 11 Lowe’s stores ran on generators in Mississippi and Alabama. Top demand items in the region impacted by the storms were bottled water, generators and tarpaulins, she said.
Lowe’s made a $250,000 donation to the American Red Cross two weeks ago during the last outbreak and a customer-giving campaign at the stores will run through May 22, Carbott said. Customers can go to their local Lowe’s and donate at the cash register to the American Red Cross to specifically help the tornado-stricken region, she said.
Joe Bell, manager of marketing and public affairs for the Kroger Delta Division, said the company has backup “generators for all the essentials,” including scanners, emergency lighting and security systems.
At the Starkville store, things “went as well we could expect,” Bell said. Kroger personnel want to serve the community “with the real essentials they need at the time, such as bottled water, shelf-stable items, snacks and canned meat,” he said. “We’ve got a great store manager, Don White. He and his team did a great job down there.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman said: “The community fared remarkably well through a very trying event.”
City officials held “a wrap-up discussion of the power outage this morning at our staff meeting and it was a relatively incident-free event. That is a credit to our citizens and our emergency service providers who persevered through difficult conditions,” the mayor said Thursday.
“In all, we were very fortunate to miss some of the major weather events that occurred around us. As you look at assessments of damage, there were significant storm events on all sides of us. It is remarkable that we saw as little storm damage as we did,” he said.
The outage in town lasted about eight to nine hours,
“We are fortunate that much of the outage was at night because it impacts fewer businesses than during the day,” Wiseman said. “However, there’s certainly an effect anytime the power is out during hours of business operations.”
Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy George Carrithers said there were “no major issues that we know of at all. It was more of an inconvenience to most people.”
Carrithers mentioned Kroger, Lowe’s and Piggly Wiggly being open.
“People were able to get supplies they needed,” he said. “You don’t realize how much electricity means to you until you’re doing without. It gave them a good opportunity to sit down and have family time.”