Ida’s fury left a complex power challenge in Louisiana

National

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, a lineman gestures as he works on a power pole, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in LaPlace, La. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Crews in Louisiana have restored power to nearly 70% of greater New Orleans and nearly all of Baton Rouge after Hurricane Ida, but outside those large cities, getting lights back on is a complex challenge that will last almost all of September, utility executives said Monday.

It’s going to involve air boats to get into the swamps and marshes to string lines and repair the most remote of about 22,000 power poles that Ida blew down when it came ashore on Aug. 29 as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland, Entergy Louisiana President and CEO Phillip May said.

More than 530,000 customers still don’t have power in Louisiana, just under half of the peak when Ida struck eight days ago. In five parishes west and south of New Orleans, at least 98% of homes and businesses don’t have power, according to the state Public Service Commission.

“It’s going to be a rebuild, not a repair,” May said.

The struggles in rural Louisiana shouldn’t keep people from forgetting the “near miraculous” speed of the repairs in New Orleans, Entergy New Orleans President and CEO Deanna Rodriguez said.

“I am so proud of the team and I think it’s a fabulous good news story,” she said.

Ida killed at least 13 people in Louisiana, many of them in the storm’s aftermath. Its remnants also brought historic flooding, record rains and tornados from Virginia to Massachusetts, killing at least 50 more people.

In the Gulf of Mexico, divers have located the apparent source of a continuing oil spill that appeared after Ida moved through the area about 2 miles (3 kilometers) south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

The owner of the pipeline hasn’t been discovered. Talos Energy, the Houston-based company currently paying for the cleanup, said it does not belong to them. The company said it is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to find the owner.

Entergy, meanwhile, warned people to be careful, because they don’t want Ida’s death toll to rise any more.

“There’s no way to know if a downed line is energized or not, so if you see one, just stay away from it,” May said.

It remains the peak of hurricane season and forecasters are watching a cluster of storms near the Yucatán Peninsula.

It’s not an organized tropical storm at the moment and is expected to move slowly to the north or northeast over the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said in a Monday update.

Forecasts don’t show any significant strengthening over the next several days, but even heavy rain could cause more pain in Louisiana.

“Unfortunately, it could bring a lot of rain to our already saturated region. If we are impacted, this could challenge our restoration.” said John Hawkins, vice president of distribution operations for Entergy Louisiana.

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