'A lot more' than 700,000 people still in the dark a week after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana

ByAya Elamroussi, CNN, CNNWire
Monday, September 6, 2021
Hurricane Ida cleanup continues week after storm
Ida came ashore a week ago as a category 4 hurricane in Louisiana. Still Sunday, more than half a million people are without power.

More than 700,000 people in Louisiana woke up in the dark Saturday as power restoration persists in being a difficult feat after Hurricane Ida battered the state.

"Electricity is one of the biggest challenges that we have across Southeast Louisiana. ... There's not an even rate of restoration going on, and that's always going to be the case. I'm always happy to see people getting powered up, and some people are going to be quite a while," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday.

The total number of customers without power as of noon Saturday was 718,559, which includes homes and businesses that equate "a lot more" people, Edwards said at a news conference in Livingston Parish. That's down from a peak of 1.1 million customers without power after the Category 4 hurricane made landfall last Sunday.

Edwards said the electrical infrastructure needs reinforcement, but there are limitations.

"It is hard for me to imagine that we will ever have an electrical infrastructure -- or other types of infrastructure as well -- that can withstand a storm of this severity without any disruptions. But we know we can minimize those disruptions," Edwards said.

Doing so, however, will require a large investment that will pay for itself over time, Edwards said.

"Especially when you consider that not just the severity of these weather events but the frequency of severe weather events is increasing," he said. Louisiana has been hit by five hurricanes within 368 days, Edwards noted.

"We can't continue to build things back to the current standard," he said.

The lack of power is so unbearable that New Orleans on Saturday began sending electricity-deprived people to powered shelters in northern Louisiana and Texas. The new shuttle program picks up people from the city convention center by charter bus.

Entergy Louisiana, which provides electric service to more than 1 million customers, estimated that power will be restored to the vast majority of its customers by Wednesday.

"We're doing everything we possibly can to speed relief to you," Edwards said as he asked for patience from those affected by Ida.

Twelve people died in Louisiana from the storm's impact -- four from carbon monoxide poisoning, said Edwards, urging people to be cautious when using generators.

"This is tasteless, it is odorless, and you don't know it's happening until it's too late," said Edwards, referring to carbon monoxide.

Gas in short supply as people wait hours to fill up

The devastating storm also left some gas stations tapped out.

Lengthy lines began forming Saturday morning hours before a gas station opened in uptown New Orleans.

A day earlier, Eric Mertz drove 20 miles from his home in neighboring St. Charles Parish to wait for gas outside a New Orleans gas station, where he believed the lines were shorter than they were near his home.

Still, he waited for hours.

"I'm just wondering where the help is," Mertz said Friday. "I don't have air conditioning. No lights. I had Covid last year. I was in the ICU for 14 days, and I'm on oxygen (treatments now). And I don't have no electricity -- it's rough."

Many gas stations are not working or don't have fuel -- and those that do have people waiting outside them for hours. Many want gas to fuel their vehicles -- some to drive out of the region, and some just to use their cars as air-conditioned places to rest. Others want to fuel their at-home generators to keep electricity going.

In one instance, a feud over gas became deadly when a man waiting for gas Friday was shot and killed, apparently after confronting a man who cut the line at a gas station in Metairie, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said.

A suspect turned himself in Friday night, Lopinto said at a news briefing Saturday. He claimed self-defense, "which doesn't match up any of the witness testimony," the sheriff said

Preliminary information indicates the suspect bypassed the gas line "and was confronted by the person that he cut," Lopinto said. The suspect went back to his car, retrieved a gun and fatally shot the victim, Lopinto added.

The sheriff urged patience at the pumps.

"(We don't) have enough policemen out there on the street to ... sit in every single gas station to play babysitter," he said. "We ... need people to act like adults."

'Not a neighborhood that's been spared,' local official says

Parts of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish experienced "more busted power poles (and) down utility lines than we've had in history" Councilman Dominick Impastato said Saturday in a video posted on Twitter.

Specifically, the communities of Metairie and Kenner are experiencing widespread destruction, he said.

"We got wind damage everywhere," Impastato said in the video. "There's not a neighborhood that's been spared, there's not a street that's been spared, there's not a neighborhood that doesn't have a massive amount of split power poles," Impastato said.

A boil water advisory in the parish stems from the power outages, he said. Impastato estimated that about 80% of the damaged houses are relatively habitable in Jefferson.

"That's going to speed up that recovery (and) make it very manageable to get back to where we were," Impastato said.

Meanwhile, officials in Terrebonne Parish are asking residents to limit water usage because of power outages in the parish's sewage system.

Officials tweeted that there are more sewer lift stations than generators in the parish, which is causing the stations to overflow. The situation is "presenting a serious public health threat."