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In Ida’s miserable wake, New Orleans to get power next week

More than 25,000 workers from 40 states are fixing the 14,000 damaged poles, 2,223 broken transformers and 155 destroyed transmission structures.
A twisted tower that carried crucial electrical feeder lines to the New Orleans metro area lies collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Bridge City, La., on  Wednesday.
A twisted tower that carried crucial electrical feeder lines to the New Orleans metro area lies collapsed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Bridge City, La., on Wednesday. [ GERALD HERBERT | AP ]
Published Sep. 3

NEW ORLEANS — Power should be restored to almost all of New Orleans by Wednesday, 10 days after Hurricane Ida destroyed the electric gird, tearing down poles, transformers and even a massive steel transmission tower and leaving more than 1 million customers in Louisiana without power.

Not every customer will have power back in the city, utility Entergy said in a statement Friday. Customers with damage where power enters their home will need to fix it themselves, and there could be some smaller areas that take longer.

And there still is no concrete promise of when the lights will come back on in the parishes east and south of New Orleans, which were battered for hours by winds of 100 mph or more, Entergy said.

The company asked for patience, acknowledging the heat and misery in Ida’s aftermath. Entergy said more than 25,000 workers from 40 states are fixing the 14,000 damaged poles, 2,223 broken transformers and 155 destroyed transmission structures.

“Please know that thousands of employees and contractors are currently in the field working day and night to restore power. We will continue working until every community is restored.” said Rod West, a group president for utility operations.

Ida’s agonizing aftermath took another grim turn Thursday as Louisiana officials announced an investigation into the deaths of four nursing home residents who had been evacuated to a warehouse ahead of the severe weather.

The nursing home residents who died were among hundreds from seven nursing homes taken to the warehouse in Independence, where conditions became unhealthy and unsafe after the hurricane struck on Sunday, state health officials said. A coroner classified three of the deaths as storm-related.

Health officials received reports of people lying on mattresses on the floor, not being fed or changed and not being socially distanced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which is currently ravaging the state, Louisiana Department of Health spokesperson Aly Neel said. When a large team of state health inspectors showed up on Tuesday to investigate the warehouse, the owner of the nursing homes demanded that they leave immediately, Neel said.

Neel identified the owner as Bob Dean. Dean did not immediately respond Thursday to a telephone message left by The Associated Press at a number listed for him.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards promised a full investigation and “aggressive legal action” if warranted.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit Louisiana on Friday to survey the damage after promising full federal support to Gulf Coast states and the Northeast, where Ida’s remnants dumped record-breaking rain and killed at least 50 people from Virginia to Connecticut.

At least 13 deaths were blamed on the storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including the three nursing home residents. Several deaths came in the aftermath of the storm from carbon monoxide poisoning, which can happen if generators are run improperly.

About 850,000 people in Louisiana, including much of New Orleans, remain without power, down from the peak of around 1.1 million five days ago as the storm arrived with top winds of 150 mph, tying it for the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to strike the mainland U.S.

Tens of thousands still have no water in the midst of a sultry stretch of summer. Efforts continued to drain flooded communities, and lines for gas stretched for blocks in many places from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

Edwards said more than 220,000 people have already registered for FEMA assistance and 22,000 have applied for a federal program to place tarps on damaged roofs. About 72,000 “blue roofs” – tarps to protect protect homes with damaged roofs – may be needed across Louisiana, federal officials said.

“I know that people are anxious and tired,” Edwards said Thursday. “I know they’re hot. And the tempers can flare when they’re waiting in those long gas lines. I’m asking people to be patient.”

Some of New Orleans’ hospitals have had their regular power supply restored, said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department. A senior center has been converted to a place for residents to receive limited health care, she added at a Thursday briefing.

Declining numbers of coronavirus patients and restoration of power at additional sites helped the recovery at Louisiana’s largest hospital system. Ochsner Health CEO Warner Thomas said the system’s COVID-19 patient count fell to 663 from 990 about a week ago, Thomas said. That coincides with the state’s overall declining case numbers.

By REBECCA SANTANA, MELINDA DESLATTE and JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press Deslatte reported from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Stacey Plaisance in Lafitte, Louisiana; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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