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Energy company: Hurricane Ida restoration could take weeks

Full restoration of electricity to some of the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana battered to an unprecedented degree by Hurricane Ida could take until the end of the month, the head of Entergy Louisiana warned Saturday.

Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles, more than hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined, an impact Entergy President and CEO Phillip May called “staggering.” More than 5,200 transformers failed and nearly 26,000 spans of wire — the stretch of transmission wires between poles — were down.

“The level of devastation makes it quite difficult or near impossible to get in and fully assess some places,” said May of five southeastern Louisiana parishes facing the longest delays. The company is estimating full power restoration by Sept. 29 or even longer for some customers, although May said that was a “no later than” date with the hope of earlier restoration.

One of those parishes is Terrebonne, where volunteers in the parish seat of Houma handed out ice, water and meals to shell-shocked storm survivors on Saturday. Houma is roughly 55 miles (90 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans.

Among those in need was 26-year-old Kendall Duthu of Dulac, who collected a container of red beans and rice, pulling over an Infiniti with a shattered windshield to eat.

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Full restoration of electricity to some of the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana battered to an unprecedented degree by Hurricane Ida could take until the end of the month, the head of Entergy Louisiana warned Saturday.

Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles, more than hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined, an impact Entergy President and CEO Phillip May called “staggering.” More than 5,200 transformers failed and nearly 26,000 spans of wire — the stretch of transmission wires between poles — were down.

“The level of devastation makes it quite difficult or near impossible to get in and fully assess some places,” said May of five southeastern Louisiana parishes facing the longest delays. The company is estimating full power restoration by Sept. 29 or even longer for some customers, although May said that was a “no later than” date with the hope of earlier restoration.

One of those parishes is Terrebonne, where volunteers in the parish seat of Houma handed out ice, water and meals to shell-shocked storm survivors on Saturday. Houma is roughly 55 miles (90 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans.

Among those in need was 26-year-old Kendall Duthu of Dulac, who collected a container of red beans and rice, pulling over an Infiniti with a shattered windshield to eat.

Duthu has been living in his car, with his girlfriend, since the storm hit. He was once a cook at a jambalaya restaurant, but the pandemic claimed that job. He was working at a car wash until that went away too. Duthu, a diabetic, lost his house in the storm and doesn’t know what’s next.

“Next stop, I don’t really …” he said, trailing off. “We’ve just been living day by day.”

Houma’s Hancock Whitney Bank, itself badly damaged by Ida, has distributed about 42,000 meals since Tuesday, and many more bottles of water, said CEO John Hairston.

“Hurricanes are just a part of life,” he said. “Buildings come and go. We may be on a different block. But next storm, we’ll be here.”

As of Saturday morning, 97% of damage assessment was complete and power restored to about 282,000 customers from the peak of 902,000 who lost power after Ida. About a quarter of New Orleans residents have had power restored, including all the city’s hospitals, and the city’s 27 substations are ready to serve customers, said Deanna Rodriguez, Entergy New Orleans president and CEO.

The lower Mississippi River reopened to all vessel traffic in New Orleans and key ports throughout southeastern Louisiana after power lines from a downed transmission tower were removed, the Coast Guard said.

But six days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, hard-hit parts of Louisiana were still struggling to restore any sense of normalcy. Even around New Orleans, a continued lack of power for most residents made a sultry stretch of summer hard to bear and added to woes in the aftermath of Ida. Louisiana authorities said Saturday that a man wanted in the shooting death a day earlier of another man during a dispute in a line at a gas station in suburban New Orleans was in custody.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city would offer transportation starting Saturday to any resident looking to leave the city and get to a public shelter. It already began moving some residents out of senior homes.

Meanwhile Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard cleanup crews were responding to a sizable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the storm. The spill, which is ongoing, appears to be coming from a source underwater at an offshore drilling lease about two miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

At the New Orleans Renaissance Place senior home Friday, dozens of residents lined up to get on minibuses equipped with wheelchair lifts after city officials said they determined conditions at the facility were not safe and evacuated it.

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