Eight days after Hurricane Ida barreled through New Orleans and knocked out power to the entire city, 71 percent of Entergy New Orleans customers have had their power restored, company executives announced on Monday. That’s a big jump from Sunday, when the company announced that only 39 percent of customers had been restored.
“This is a good day,” Entergy New Orleans CEO Deanna Rodriguez said.
Regionally, 51 percent of the 902,000 Entergy customers who lost power during the storm have been restored.
“Eight days after being struck by one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever strike U.S. soil, we have hit a major milestone,” Entergy Louisiana CEO Phillip May said on Monday. “Our massive workforce of more than 26,000 workers from 41 states working tirelessly have restored power and a sense of normalcy to 51% of the 902,000 customers that were affected by the storm.”
Rodriguez said the company was still on track to restore most of New Orleans’ power by Sept. 8, excluding some areas on the eastern edge of Orleans Parish which are outside of the levee system. Those areas are expected to regain power in late September.
“We are still on track to have 90 percent of our customers restored by Wednesday, September 8,” Rodriguez said.
But while the overall, city-wide restoration estimates appear to be on track, there have been some reported issues with the granular, neighborhood level restoration estimates that Entergy released last week.
New Orleans Councilman Joe Giarrusso told The Lens that while he’s pleased with the overall progress, he was frustrated with the communication between the company and customers still waiting for their lights to come back on.
“Power is being restored extraordinarily quickly, in fairness to them,” he said. “But I’ve also been on the phone for four hours triaging people who don’t have power.”
Giarrusso and other members of the City Council — which is responsible for regulating Entergy New Orleans — have often butted heads with company executives over the company’s customer communications. In this instance, Giarrusso said that all the communication problems were issues that he and other council members predicted and raised with the company early last week, shortly after the storm passed through the city.
“I would call it a deep frustration,” he said.
He said that in phone calls with the company in the days after the storm, he and the other council members told the company they needed to do a couple things. First, they needed to release neighborhood level restoration estimates to help people make plans. Second, when those restoration times were inevitably and understandably altered, there needed to be clear communication about exactly what the problem was and how it would affect the estimated restoration time.
The first request was fulfilled. Entergy New Orleans released those neighborhood estimates on Friday. But the second part of the request — keeping customers updated over time — is where Giarrusso is seeing a problem.
Rodriguez said on Monday that restoration estimates have changed as lineman have gone out in the field and discovered problems that weren’t included in the original damage assessment.
“As we said before, the restoration times are estimates and are subject to change,” Rodriguez said.
Also on Monday, May said that Entergy had been able to restore power to a key pumping station that will allow refineries to access crude oil from the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to process more gasoline.
“What that means for refineries that are already up and running, particularly the ones in the Baton Rouge area, they can have immediate access to that crude and continue to produce gasoline for this region and the entire US.”
Entergy Louisiana Vice President of Distribution Operations John Hawkins said that the company was monitoring a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico. He said that while it appeared the disturbance will not develop into a storm, it could still “bring a lot of rain to our already saturated regions.” He said that it could potentially impact restoration times, especially if winds go over 30 miles per hour, which would force the company to temporarily stop using bucket trucks.