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NEW ORLEANS The CEO of Entergy Louisiana said power could be out for nearly half of the region's customers for at least a week after Hurricane Isaac's wind and rain wreaked havoc on the company's energy grid Wednesday.

Nearly 10,000 crew members are prepared to begin assessing and restoring power to nearly 600,000 customers as soon as winds calm down to less than 30 mph, Entergy Louisiana CEO Bill Mohl said.

'Right now we don't anticipate those winds decreasing to below 30 mph until sometime tomorrow morning or afternoon depending on location,' Mohl said. 'Once we get the assessments done, then we'll be moving methodically through to address the highest-priority customers and deploying our resources to address those issues.'

When asked if power could be out for at least a week, Mohl said there's no question.

'That's not out of the realm of possibility based on where things stand right now,' Mohl said. 'We've had significant damage to the system and it very well could be that order of magnitude.'

Orleans Parish alone had nearly 161,000 without power while Jefferson Parish had 176,756 out of power by 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, Cleco said more than 53,500 had lost power because of Isaac. Of those outages, almost 48,000 were in St. Tammany Parish. Cleco spokeswoman Susan Broussard said 2,400 employees and contractors were set to restore power when weather permits.

Isaac blew ashore packing winds of 80 mph Tuesday evening. But it lingered for hours, its full eye wall not coming inland until late Wednesday morning and still not past New Orleans.

Entergy's system was pounded by Isaac, whose winds and rains brought down a number of transmission lines and forcing other generating units offline.

Additionally, the company powered down the Waterford Nuclear Generating Plant in Killona, La., as a precautionary measure, with Mohl stressing that 'the unit is not damaged.'

'Safety is our No. 1 priority,' Mohl said. 'Once we get an assessment of situation, what our restoration plans on, we will make sure that we coordinate the starting of generating units to match our load and that will work closely in conjunction with the restoration effort. It's a very well-thought out methodical plan.'

Mohl said his company was not surprised by Isaac.

'We are always prepared,' he said. 'We prepare for the worst. I think the fact that this is such a slow-moving storm is just causing more damage than we had hoped.'

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