Power Restoration Continues After Ida; Storm's Death Toll Tops 60

Power restoration efforts continue along the Gulf Coast and in the U.S. Northeast, as utilities work to bring electricity back to areas in Louisiana hit hard by Hurricane Ida, and around New York City and New England due to heavy rainfall from remnants of the storm.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) in a Sept. 3 update said just more than 900,000 customers remained without power early Friday, with more than 90% of those in Louisiana, most located in the area in and around New Orleans.

Ida made landfall in the early afternoon of Aug. 29 near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane. Officials have said Ida tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mainland.

The storm weakened as it moved inland over the next few days, but produced heavy rainfall that resulted in flash flooding in the Northeast on Sept. 1 and into Sept. 2. Government officials on Friday said the death toll from Ida and its impacts had left more than 60 people dead across eight states, including more than a dozen deaths in New York City. Most of those deaths were people living in basement apartments in the city, where floodwaters filled the spaces before residents could escape.

Transmission Lines Damaged

Entergy, the utility that serves New Orleans, said winds from hurricane Ida—one gust was clocked at 172 miles per hour—knocked out eight high-voltage transmission lines that serve the area. It said two of those lines were back in service as of Friday afternoon.

Entergy in a media briefing Friday morning said it will be at least another five days before power restoration is completed for most of the metropolitan area. The utility later Friday said power had been restored to about 137,000 customers, though more than 700,000 customers remained without electricity. Entergy said more than 904,000 customers in its service territory were without power at the height of the outages.

“We understand the extreme difficulty of living without power, and hope that these estimated times of restoration can help customers better plan and prepare for the coming days, and for those in the hardest-hit areas, weeks ahead,” said Rod West, Entergy group president, utility operations, in a statement. “We recognize the hardship this historic storm has wrought on our communities and across our region. We ask that our customers remain safe, and we appreciate their extended patience. Please know that thousands of employees and contractors are currently in the field working day and night to restore power. We will continue working until every community is restored.”

Residents who did not evacuate prior to Ida’s arrival are in their sixth day of blackout conditions. High temperatures, along with the high humidity common in southern Louisiana, have led officials to warn of extreme heat conditions, with heat indexes well above 100 degrees.

Airport Reopens

Commercial flights into and out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport resumed Thursday on a limited schedule, though only Delta Airlines was flying. Other airlines are expected to resume service on Saturday, although many airlines already have cut their upcoming flight schedules to the Crescent City.

Hundreds of flights were canceled over the past few days due to the storm. The airport had lost power on Aug. 29 and could only operate on emergency generator power. Officials said there was no significant damage to the airport’s terminal facility, but there was debris on runways, roads to and from the airport, and damage to the perimeter fence.

Entergy executives on Friday gave Sept. 8 as the “estimated times to complete power restoration” in the main population centers of Orleans Parish, the Metairie-Kenner area, the west bank (of both Orleans and Jefferson parishes), and New Orleans East. Helena Moreno, the New Orleans City Council member who chairs the oversight committee that regulates Entergy New Orleans, took to Twitter to release a more-detailed list of when and where power will be restored to local neighborhoods.

Helena Moreno, a New Orleans city council member, tweeted this information on Sept. 3 about power restoration effort in the city. Credit: Twitter

A DOE report, from the agency’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response, said Entergy had “restored power for some customers in eastern New Orleans with generation supplied by the New Orleans Power Station,” and said the utility “is working to restore the transmission system serving New Orleans.”  The DOE report said the group “is coordinating with industry, interagency, and territorial partners to support response efforts related to Hurricane Ida.”

Major Restoration Effort

The DOE on Friday said the power sector has activated mutual assistance networks and more than 25,000 personnel from at least 32 states, along with the District of Columbia, in support of power restoration efforts.

Consolidated Edison (ConEd), the utility serving much of the New York City area, on Friday said it expects to restore power today to 95% of the customers who sustained blackouts in the group’s service territory. ConEd said more than 32,000 customers lost power as wind and rain from what remained of Ida moved through the region.

The company late Thursday said “Dangerous floodwaters throughout the service territory have receded allowing restoration work to proceed in the Bronx neighborhoods of Allerton, Gun Hill, and Laconia as well as the Maspeth and Jamaica areas in Queens.” ConEd said about 500 outside contractors had been brought in to assist with restoration efforts.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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