Six days after Hurricane Ida knocked out power to hundreds of thousands in the region, service has been restored to three additional transmission lines bringing electricity into the New Orleans area, bringing the total to six out of eight, Entergy executives said in a Saturday morning press call.
“We are now fully secure,” Entergy New Orleans CEO Deanna Rodriguez said Saturday.
As of Saturday morning, 55,000 customers in the city of New Orleans have been restored to power, about 27 percent of the city. That’s an increase from 20 percent on Friday morning. Around the region, about 282,000 customers have been restored, but more than 600,000 remained in the dark. Damage assessments are now 100 percent complete for the city and 97 percent complete for the region impacted by Ida.
The power company has also released restoration estimates for some of the hardest hit parts of the state, which experienced catastrophic damage during the Category 4 storm. Those were not available on Friday morning, when the company released its first firm estimates for power restoration in the New Orleans metro area, the Baton Rouge metro area and other parts of the state. Most of the city should have power by the middle of next week, Entergy estimates. A small number of areas on the eastern edge of Orleans Parish, outside of the levee protection system, will likely have to wait longer. The current estimate for full restoration there is Sept. 25.
According to the newly released estimates, some of the most damaged areas in Louisiana will have to wait more than a week, and in some cases several weeks, for full restoration. St. John the Baptist Parish and St. James Parish are expected to be fully restored by Sept. 17. Assumption Parish should be online by Sept. 22. Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, St. Charles Parish and Plaquemines Parish outside of Belle Chasse will be fully restored by Sept. 29, though the company says those are “no later than” dates. Belle Chasse is expected to be restored by Sept. 10.
On Saturday, Entergy Louisiana CEO Philip May described the damage to the system in southeast Louisiana as “staggering.” More than 5,200 transformers failed, and more than 22,000 poles were damaged and destroyed.
“This storm is clearly one of the most devastating things we’ve seen in Louisiana,” May said. “No storm even comes close to this.”
New Orleans lost service to all eight of its major transmission lines during the storm. Those are the large lines connecting the area to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid, which runs through 15 states and part of Canada. Power began to flicker back on in New Orleans on Wednesday, when Entergy was able to bring back one transmission line coming into the city from Slidell, and route that power through the new New Orleans Power Station gas plant in eastern New Orleans.
The NOPS plant, which is only able to generate a small fraction of the city’s normal power needs, opened in 2020. The 128-megawatt natural gas plant was approved by the New Orleans City Council, which regulates Entergy New Orleans, in 2018 over fierce opposition from neighbors and environmental groups. The Lens later reported that an Entergy subcontractor paid actors to come to council meetings and voice support for the plant.
The council fined Entergy New Orleans $5 million over the scandal. While the company said the plant’s primary purpose was to provide additional electricity when demand is extremely high. But Entergy officials also said the plant would be able to provide some needed power quickly, and without the need to connect to the grid, in the event of a massive transmission failure, such as one that happened this week. Entergy has faced scrutiny over the past several days over why the plant did not begin serving the area until after the transmission line was repaired.
With 75 percent of the city’s transmission lines now operational, and all 27 of the city’s substations ready to serve homes and businesses, the company can focus on repairing damage to power poles and internal distribution lines. Nearly 1,100 poles in New Orleans were damaged in the storm. Entergy has released neighborhood-by-neighborhood estimates for full restoration in New Orleans.
Entergy customers — particularly those who evacuated and are waiting for power to come back before they return — should not rely on the Entergy outage map, which has been experiencing technical problems throughout the week, to determine if electricity is available in their homes. Company officials instead urged them to sign up for text updates by texting REG to 36778.
If a property is flooded or the power line connecting it to Entergy’s distribution lines was damaged, residents and business owners should turn off the circuit breaker and call an electrician to perform an assessment. Do not step in water to reach the circuit breaker, Entergy officials said Saturday. If it’s not possible to safely reach a circuit breaker or fuse box, call an electrician, they said.