New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is hopeful power will be restored to city residents faster than initial fears after Hurricane Ida caused a citywide blackout, she said at a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday.
“Hopefully not weeks,” Cantrell said, when asked for a timeline of restoration. “I think the progress we are seeing on the ground has really moved forward.”
The first New Orleans households had power restored early Wednesday morning, more than two days after Hurricane Ida knocked out the city’s entire electrical supply. The city lost all eight transmission lines that power its electrical grid, Entergy New Orleans officials reported in recent days.
Entergy New Orleans CEO Deanna Rodriguez said Wednesday that one of those transmission lines, coming in from Slidell, has been restored. And the company is generating power from the New Orleans Power Station in eastern New Orleans. But that is not enough power for the entire city.
“While the line was restored, coupled with NOPS, are not large enough to power the entire city,” Rodriguez said.
The utility will be restoring substations along the flow of available power, she said, noting 10 substations are ready to receive power. With that power available, Entergy is now able to put more resources into assessing its local distribution lines, the lines that actually deliver power to homes and businesses. However, Rodriguez said the company could not provide a timeline to full restoration until its assessment is at least 90 percent complete, and they are not there yet.
“We are waiting on assessments. It’s always been gradual,” Cantrell said. “There’s never been one switch and the whole city is lit.”
Entergy officials also couldn’t say whether customers may see increased fees due to Ida’s damage and the cost to repair poles, lines and other resulting issues.
“We’ll have to see — I don’t have an answer to that,” Rodriguez said when asked. “We’ll have to take stock of what federal funds we can get.”
Emergency federal funds could help offset costs to customers.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 172,000 Orleans Parish households remained without power. Across the region, over 781,000 households are without power.
Focus on safety
City officials also stressed the importance of safety when it comes to individual needs — staying cool and hydrated in the hot weather — and when using gasoline powered generators which have already sent over a dozen residents to the hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning is also suspected to be responsible for at least one death, according to New Orleans Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Emily Nichols.
Nichols also said the agency has seen a significant jump in calls for service, in part due to heat exhaustion and storm related injuries. Other providers are helping the agency meet the demand, she said.
New Orleans Fire Department Chief Roman Nelson also stressed generator safety.
“Carbon monoxide is a killer. Your generator needs to be outside. It needs to be far away from your house,” he said. “We had 12 people transported to the hospital today with carbon monoxide poisoning, three people in critical condition.”
He also implored citizens to ensure their generators are cooled off when refueling them, because gasoline fumes can ignite. Additionally he cautioned residents not to wire their generators to home electrical panels.
The city’s Director of Homeland Security Collin Arnold said the city will begin distributing 8,800 tarps tomorrow. They will do so at the city’s cooling centers, where residents can cool off and access food, water and charging stations. An Orleans Parish address must be given to receive a tarp. If residents cannot reach a cooling center they should call 311, Cantrell said.
“The Louisiana National Guard is operating two sites with water and food available: Joe Brown Park and Mahalia Jackson Theater today,” Arnold said. Additional sites will open tomorrow, including the Lyons Center and Wesley Barrow park.
The city’s deputy Chief Administrative Officer Ramsey Green said they’re working to restore services.
“Really our goal right now is to make our city operable for our 200,000 residents who stayed and 200,000 who need to get back,” Green said.
While debris won’t be picked up until next week, trash service is resuming on a limited basis, he said.
“Today we’re clearing Esplanade, Orleans, Canal, Broad to City Park, Jefferson, Norman Francis,” he said. “It’s a lot of the Endymion/Zulu routes as I read those.”
“We’ve resolved 80 major streets that were blocked by trees,” Green said, cautioning residents that trees that remain down could be entangled with power lines and are dangerous
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman said the Orleans Justice Center had been evacuated prior to the storm. Since the storm, he’s received 55 arrests, he said, but it was unclear what the offenses were.
New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said a citywide curfew — from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. — will remain in effect until further notice. The city announced a new exception for delivery service vehicles to ensure residents could receive important packages, such as medication.
“We continue to engage in our active anti-looting deployment in partnership with (several agencies),” Ferguson said. “Just last night we made numerous looting arrests. We are under a curfew and we are actively engaging from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. with regards to anyone on the streets during these hours.”