Huge swaths of New Orleans could be without power for weeks after Hurricane Ida destroyed all eight transmission lines that deliver electricity to the city. Now downgraded to a tropical depression, Ida’s official death toll has risen to four. “We have no electricity, no communication. Our water systems are down. We’re losing pressure,” Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said in a video call with the White House.
“It’s going to be a difficult life for quite some time.” Entergy, the region’s main utility still does not know how long it will take to restore electricity service to its nearly 900,000 customers in the area or the several hundred thousand customers of other utilities who are also in the dark. Mass outages like this were supposed to be mitigated by a new gas power plant built in the city, right next to predominantly Black and Vietnamese American neighborhoods last year — but it’s down too. “
The gas plant was built over our objections,” Monique Harden, assistant director for public policy at the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, told the New York Times. The utility built the plant despite calls for distributed solar energy installations backed by battery storage. “If anything happened to the transmission, this gas plant was supposed to supply electricity to the City of New Orleans,” she added. “This is going to require some investigation.”
“The city could be out of power for a month, and when I hear people in power say a month, I hear as much as three months because I know New Orleans,” Laura Paul, executive director of Lowernine.org, a nonprofit group formed after Hurricane Katrina, told the Washington Post. Paul said residents stuck in their hot, dark homes are in serious need of solar generators and small, solar-powered phone-charger/lantern combinations.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans police department has deployed forces focused on preventing survivors from desperately seeking food and potable water following the storm, “put[ting] Black lives in particular danger,” Ko Bragg, a New Orleans-based editor at Scalawag, tweeted. (Electricity outages: Washington Post $, AP, Wall Street Journal $, NOLA.com, CBS, Utility Dive, Black Wall Street Times, FT $, ABC, CNN, New York Times $, New York Times $, NOLA.com, NOLA.com; Gas plant: New York Times $; Death toll: Washington Post $; Police: Mother Jones, NewsOne; Climate Signals background: Hurricanes)