New Orleans City Hall (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Monday urged residents who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Ida not to return until officials can fully assess the damage from the storm and begin restoring services. 

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, Cantrell said the request has primarily to do with the lack of power in the city. The category 4 storm, which lingered over the metro area for most of Sunday, has left New Orleans entirely without power. Entergy New Orleans was still assessing the full extent of the damage.

“Now is not the time for reentry to the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said. “We will notify you as soon as possible when it’s safe to come home.” 

Entergy has 4,500 workers in the city doing damage assessment and beginning repairs. The damage was much more extensive than a typical power outage in the city. Rather than damage to distribution lines, the storm took out major transmission lines that bring power into New Orleans and suburban parishes. As of Monday morning, about 840,000 Entergy customers in the state were without power, including about 177,000 in New Orleans and 200,000 in Jefferson Parish.  

Entergy CEO Deanna Rodriguez said that along with the line workers in the city, there were more than 21,000 crew members deployed around the state. But they were still early in the assessment phase by the afternoon. 

“It would be premature for me to speculate when power will be restored,” while the assessment is ongoing, she said. “By the end of the day, we’ll know more.” Residents can sign up for text alerts on Entergy’s website. 

The outages have affected the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board with less power redundancy to operate the city’s drainage pumps. But it is still generating its own power on Turbines 4 and 5, which produce the antiquated 25-cycle power that runs about half the city’s pumps, and Turbine 6, which produces modern 60-cycle power. As for the pumps themselves, most are operational, Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Ghassan Korban said Monday. 

Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said police, fire and EMS started assessing damage as soon as it was safe Monday morning. He said that tree limbs, power lines are down throughout the city. Debris from damaged and destroyed buildings is also blocking many roads. Arnold urged residents still in the city not to stay in their neighborhoods and not go out onto the roads. 

“This is still an extremely hazardous situation,” Arnold said.  

Orleans Parish Communication District Director Tyrell Morris emphasized that one of the biggest hazards for residents is the lack of an emergency call service. OPCD’s 911 service was out briefly on Sunday, then it went out again overnight and had yet to be restored before the press conference.

“Our 911 infrastructure right now is inoperable,” Morris said, resulting from widespread outages in the AT&T network. 

About an hour after the press conference ended, however, Cantrell announced on Twitter that 911 service in the city had been restored.

This story was updated after the city announced that the 911 system was operational again.