NEW ORLEANS — Many people in the metro New Orleans area are waking up to a lack of power in their homes and the prospect that temperatures would go into the 90s with heat indexes close to 100.
Entergy crews are out in force, but only a handful of customers had power back by early morning, according to the company's web site.
As of 7:15 a.m., Entergy CEO Charles Rice said there were about 128,000 customers without power in Orleans and a "similar" number in Jefferson.
Rice said most of the company's transmission lines were restored and that all of the substations were hot. "We will make significant progress today. I know this is very difficult for everyone. If it gives anyone solace, I don't have power in my place."
The company said that more than 1,000 out-of-state crew members will be in New Orleans working 16-hour shifts alongside those employed by Entergy to get power back on across the metropolitan area.
“We will work into the night,” said Charles Rice, CEO of Entergy-New Orleans. “We will also work while it’s raining. We don’t anticipate the winds anymore so we’ll be working pretty much non-stop.”
A small percentage of Entergy customers are on the Northshore, where Cleco and co-ops provide energy. Cleco’s website Thursday afternoon showed that more than 40,000 customers were without power in St. Tammany Parish.
As for Entergy’s coverage area, Rice said teams were around the city assessing the damage and once finished, hospitals, police stations and fire stations are top priority. Beyond that, Entergy will try to fix transmission lines and substations. In Metairie, Rice said around 30 transmission lines were taken down while New Orleans had five.
Transmission lines bring in high-voltage power from generating plants while substations deliver power to the grid.
Rice said the company has made advances in making the line as storm-proof as possible since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“But each one of these storms, they’re all different,” Rice said. “Oftentimes there’s not enough preparation that you can do to stop some things from happening.”
He added, “You’re safe from flooding. If you’re in the hurricane protection area, you’re safe from flooding. Protection from winds, nobody can do that. IF you get winds up 30,40, 50, 60mph, things are going to happen. Things are going to blow into the lines. Lines are going to go down. That’s just the reality.”
Rice did say that Isaac ended up being a lot more powerful than anyone ever expected.
“I think in this particular case, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated that this would be a slow-mover that would sit over the city for such a long time,” Rice said. “When you have that slow-mover that sits over us for a long time, it allows those winds to do a lot of damage.”
The CEO stressed for customers to be patient. He described the process of turning power on as one in which they’re looking for the biggest “bang for the buck.” They’ll look for areas where a line can put on a large number of people instead of one that brings a handful of homes online first.
He does promise one thing.
“These guys take great pride in restoring power,” Rice said. “They would like nothing better than to get you on as soon as possible.”