NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Power should be restored to almost all of New Orleans by Wednesday, 10 days after Hurricane Ida destroyed the city’s electrical grid and left more than 1 million customers in Louisiana without power, utility officials said Friday.
Entergy, the company that provides electricity to the city, issued a statement asking for patience and acknowledging the heat and misery in Ida’s aftermath. More than 25,000 workers from 40 states are trying to fix 14,000 damaged poles, more than 2,200 broken transformers and more than 150 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.
Customers with damage where power enters their home will need to fix it themselves, and there could be some smaller areas that take longer, the company said. The utility offered no promises for 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 (160 kph) or more.
In other developments, Louisiana health officials on Thursday announced an investigation into the deaths of four nursing home residents who were evacuated to a warehouse ahead of the severe weather.
The residents who died were among hundreds from seven nursing homes taken to the warehouse in Independence, where 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.
A coroner classified three of the deaths as storm-related.
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, Louisiana Department of Health spokesperson Aly 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 in the aftermath of the storm were blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning, which can happen if generators are run improperly.
“The most dangerous part of a hurricane is after the storm,” said Entergy New Orleans CEO Deanna Rodriguez, who asked people to be careful around generators. ”Here it’s sadly happening again.”
About 850,000 people in Louisiana, including much of New Orleans, remained without power, down from the peak of around 1.1 million five days ago as the storm arrived with top winds of 150 mph (230 kph). It is tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to strike the mainland U.S.
Tens of thousands still have no drinking water in the midst of a sultry stretch of summer. Floodwaters still fill some 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 assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 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.
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.