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

As New Orleans residents await electricity after Hurricane Ida swept through southeastern Louisiana and caused a citywide outage, city officials announced a plan to open cooling centers and food and water distribution sites. Despite soaring temperatures, there are no plans to move people out of town, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at a press conference Tuesday. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, 786,000 households remained without power, down slightly from over 850,000 on Monday. The city’s bus system will open mobile cooling centers and residents can access center locations via the NolaReady app. 

“These resources are being deployed to meet people where they are,” Cantrell said.

Power could be restored as soon as Wednesday to parts of the city, according to officials, The Times-Picayune/Advocate reported.

During the live-streamed press conference, many people on social media expressed frustration at the city’s current priorities, believing the discussed measures hardly touch the surface of all that’s truly needed. Limited fuel and long lines at gas stations are impacting whether or not residents can leave their homes to escape the boredom and August heat that comes with a lack of electricity. Plans for a full restoration of power — or 90 percent — can take weeks under normal circumstances from a storm the strength of Ida, according to Entergy’s website. 

Yesterday, Cantrell urged evacuated residents not to return home until it is safe to do so due to downed power lines and an ongoing devastation survey process. Evacuees, many of whom are economically unprepared for lengthy hotel stays, require immediate assistance to address housing concerns. 

At a morning press conference, Edwards announced over 113,000 households have applied for federal disaster assistance with the majority of applications coming from Orleans parish. But, it is unclear how this will help residents afford extra days of housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Much of this assistance would benefit those whose homes are deemed ‘uninhabitable,’ which requires them to return home in order to properly assess damages as well as a waiting period. While a lack of electricity is a major inconvenience, it does not prevent families from going back home and being eligible for housing assistance. As such, many people have already been quickly denied.

Ahead of the storm’s landfall, Cantrell announced officials would be ready to move residents out of the city if necessary. Officials reported there were contracts in place for over 125 coach buses to help transport residents out of the city following significant damages and power outages.  But now, that doesn’t seem to be of major concern to her administration. 

“We are not getting an overwhelming number of those calls in regards to people wanting to evacuate. As it relates to the city of New Orleans and executing a post storm evacuation, we have pivoted to remaining and sheltering in place and deploying necessary resources throughout neighborhoods,” Cantrell said. 

Officials also said any focus on post-evacuation from New Orleans would be for people with special medical needs. 

“We have real people calling our residents directly and responding to their needs,” Cantrell said.

For those without major medical issues, some may be able to evacuate, but only to state identified shelters: the closest one is in Alexandria. 

“It’s not to hotels. It’s not to any of that, it’s to shelters,” Cantrell said. “When people are informed of that, they say they’d much rather remain in the city.”