New Orleans Power Restored 2 Weeks After Hurricane Ida, 220K Still Without Across State

Power has been restored to a vast majority of customers in the New Orleans area nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ida hit, but more than 220,000 homes and businesses in southeast Louisiana are still without electricity, according to the state Public Service Commission.

Phillip May, chief executive of Entergy Louisiana, the state's largest power provider, said power crews reached a "major milestone", with a majority of power restored to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Entergy said that about 98 percent of customers now have power, and those without had more severe damage.

In the four hardest-hit parishes of St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Terrebonne and Lafourche, at least 80 percent of their utility customers were without power. May said Friday that more crews are heading south to the areas most heavily affected by the storm now that power has been mostly restored in the cities.

"As we move into those harder-hit areas, the effort to restore customers becomes greater," said May, who vowed to "keep up the pace" of restoring electricity across the region.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Hurricane Ida Flooding
In Louisiana, more than 220,000 businesses and homes remain without power after Hurricane Ida. Above, residents wade through flood waters in their neighborhood on August 30, 2021, in LaPlace, Louisiana. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Supply trucks are once again delivering beer on Bourbon Street and the landmark Cafe Du Monde is serving beignets, fried pastries covered with white sugar, even though there aren't many tourists or locals around to partake of either.

New Orleans is showing signs of making a comeback from the Category 4 storm, which is blamed for more than two dozen deaths in the state. More businesses are opening daily, gasoline is easier to find and many roads are lined with huge debris piles from cleanup work.

Thousands are still struggling without electricity and water outside the metro area, and officials say oppressive heat is contributing to both health problems and misery. It could still be weeks before power is restored in some areas, and many residents who evacuated haven't returned.

"It is not lost on anybody here at the state level and certainly not on our local partners just how many people continue to suffer," Governor John Bel Edwards said Thursday. "While things are getting better and we can be thankful for that...this is going to be a very long-term recovery."

Around New Orleans, residents are seeing signs that life is getting back to normal after Ida. Philip Palumbo, who lives in the French Quarter and works at a bar that remains shuttered, said the citywide curfew being lifted should help restaurants and bars struggling to reopen get more customers.

"There's not a lot around yet, but they'll be back," he said.

Other parts of the state's health care network, which was slammed with COVID-19 cases even before Ida, are struggling. Executives of Ochsner Health System, Louisiana's largest care provider, estimate it will take about four weeks to get two of its damaged hospitals fully operational.

Across the system, "heat illness is a big concern," said Dr. Robert Hart, Ochsner's chief medical officer. Hart said emergency rooms have also seen several patients stricken by carbon monoxide, a common problem after big storms as people use gas-powered generators for electricity, sometimes indoors.

"Many of those have not had to be admitted, thank goodness. But it certainly is a good reason to keep reminding people that they've got to be careful with their generators," he said. "We had one family say they put the generator in their house because they were afraid it would get stolen."

In one bright spot, Ochsner said the number of people being treating for COVID-19 is down significantly. Ochsner had 486 COVID-19 patients Thursday, down from 1,074 a month ago, chief executive Warner Thomas said.

"We've continued to see a decline pretty much every day over the past couple of weeks," Thomas said.

Around New Orleans, progress is showing up both in lights that are back on and piles of debris that line multiple streets. As residents return home they are stacking up wet mattresses, fractured lumber, tree limbs and other storm refuse along curbs. In the French Quarter, a big pile sat beneath balconies with decorative ironwork.

In the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, Tiffany Scott and her family had a long pile of debris along the sidewalk outside her home. Scott said it has slowly gotten easier to get gas, ice and other supplies that were scarce immediately after the hurricane.

"We've been through this before, so most of us are used to knowing that we have to go drive and sit in a line," she said. "But it's a lot easier to find the things you need."

Still, there is evidence the city has a ways to go before it is fully recovered.

Sid Padil, visiting from San Francisco to check on gas stations and convenience stores he owns in Louisiana and Mississippi, said he was surprised by the devastation and swaths of blue-tarped roofs visible upon landing in New Orleans on Monday. He had a hard time finding a place to eat, and when he did, it was mostly locals and what appeared to be recovery workers, said Padil.

"I don't see many tourists right now," he said.

New Orleans Recovers After Ida
Power has been restored in New Orleans nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ida struck. Above, a mule pulls a carriage through the French Quarter in New Orleans on September 2, 2021. Stacey Plaisance/AP Photo