Full restoration of power supplies in some of the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana hit by Hurricane Ida could take until the end of the month, Entergy Louisiana chief warned.
At least 16 deaths were attributed to the storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 electricity pylons, more than Hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined – an effect that Entergy President Phillip May described as “harrowing”.
More than 5,200 transformers failed and almost 26,000 wire spans, the route of transmission cables between the masts, had failed.
Mr May said, “The extent of the devastation makes it quite difficult or almost impossible to get into some places and fully assess them.”
The company expects full power restoration for some customers by September 29 or even longer.
Entergy New Orleans President Deanna Rodriguez said about a quarter of New Orleans residents are back on electricity, including all of the city’s hospitals, and the city’s 27 electrical substations are ready to serve customers.
One of the communities facing long delays in restoring electricity is Terrebonne, where volunteers at Houma community headquarters distributed ice, water and meals to survivors of the storm on Saturday. Houma is about 90 kilometers southwest of New Orleans.
Some communities outside of New Orleans have been ravaged by winds of 100 miles an hour or more for hours.
On Saturday morning, 97% of the damage assessment was complete and power was restored to around 282,000 customers after the peak of 902,000 after Ida.
The lower Mississippi River was reopened to all shipping in New Orleans and ports throughout southeast Louisiana after power lines were removed from a crashed transmission tower, the Coast Guard said.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city offers transportation to anyone who wants to leave the city and get to a public emergency shelter.
By the end of Saturday, city authorities conducting wellness checks had evacuated hundreds of people from eight senior housing complexes where officials believed the conditions were unworthy of life.
The coroner’s office is investigating four post-storm deaths that occurred at three of these facilities.
As restoration efforts continued, state officials monitored a system of disturbed weather in Campeche Bay, Mexico, which was believed to be encroaching on the central Gulf of Mexico closer to Louisiana.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the state is planning an exercise to assess its emergency response measures, if necessary.
Previous predictions do not show the system will intensify into a hurricane, but he said, “Even if it’s a tropical storm, we are currently unable to receive that much rainfall”.
He said, “We can’t take the playbook we normally use because the people and assets are no longer where they would have been.
“How do you occupy accommodations that you need for the new storm and continue to test for Covid? My head hurts just thinking about it.
“We’ll be as ready as we can, but I pray we don’t have to deal with this.”
Meanwhile, Coast Guard crews responded on Saturday to a sizeable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the storm.
The ongoing leak appears to be from an underwater well in an offshore well lease approximately two miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
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