After Ida, widespread power outages in Louisiana and Mississippi
By Jesús Jiménez
The lashing winds have ceased and the downpours have stopped, but despite Hurricane Ida’s departure from Louisiana, recovery is far away for a state that is no stranger to storms and their aftermath.
The governor warned that residents would face more challenges on Tuesday and beyond, including widespread power outages and the risk of deadly accidents if generators are misused. Local officials, including Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans and Cynthia Lee Sheng, the Jefferson Parish president, asked residents who evacuated their homes not to return until it was announced safe to do so.
“This is not the community that you left,” Lee Sheng said at a news conference. “I know you’re anxious to check your homes, but we are asking that everybody not come home yet. We cannot provide you the modern amenities that you’re used to.”
In Jefferson Parish, repairs need to be made to water lines, sewer systems and electrical grids, Lee Sheng said.
“I liken it to calling it a system breakdown,” she said.
The struggles were similar across southeastern Louisiana, but one of the greatest concerns was restoring power. More than 1 million customers were without power on Tuesday, including much of New Orleans, where all eight transmission lines that deliver power to the city were knocked out of service.
In Mississippi, about 60,000 customers lacked electricity, according to reports compiled by PowerOutage.us.
Entergy, a major power company in Louisiana, said on Monday that it would most likely “take days to determine the extent of damage to our power grid and far longer to restore electrical transmission to the region.”
Sweltering temperatures were compounding the misery of those without electricity. Heat advisories were in effect for parts of southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi for much of the day on Tuesday, when the heat index — a measure of how hot it really feels — expected to reach as high as 106 degrees.
On Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said at a news conference that there were more questions than answers about recovery.
“I can’t tell you when the power is going to be restored,” he said. “I can’t tell you when all the debris is going to be cleaned up and repairs made and so forth.”
Despite the challenges, New Orleans could rejoice that the levee system designed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to protect the city from flooding did its job.
“We held the line, New Orleans,” Cantrell said on Twitter. “The dollars invested into our levee system from state & federal partners were not in vain. However, moving forward we must repair our broken power grid.”
At least five deaths have been attributed to the storm, officials said: A man died while driving in New Orleans; a woman was found dead in the fishing village of Jean Lafitte, south of the city; and a man was killed in Prairieville, about 20 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, where a tree fell on a house. In Mississippi, two people were killed and 10 were injured when a highway collapsed.
Ida, which weakened into a tropical depression on Monday afternoon, was expected to move over the Middle Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic through Wednesday, with the potential to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to those regions, the National Hurricane Center said.
Counties across Middle Tennessee were under a flash flood watch through early Wednesday, meaning that conditions were favorable for flooding, including in the area still reeling from severe flooding after remnants of Tropical Storm Fred.
Although it might take days or weeks to recover from Ida, Lee Sheng reminded residents that many in Jefferson Parish who were assisting with current recovery efforts had done the same after Hurricane Katrina.
“I know we have been through a lot as a community, I know sometimes I think we’re feeling like we’re tested,” she said. “But make no mistake, we are battered, but we will not be broken.”