Thousands of people risk weeks without electricity following Ida

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Louisiana communities as they begin the enormous task of cleaning up the debris and repairing the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ida face the depressing prospect of weeks without electricity in the sweltering heat of late summer.

Ida ravaged the region’s electricity grid, leaving all of New Orleans and hundreds of thousands of other Louisiana residents in the dark without a specific timeline for the return of electricity. Some areas outside of New Orleans also experienced significant flooding and structural damage.

“I can’t tell you when the power will be on. I can’t tell you when all the debris will be cleaned up and repairs made, ”Governor John Bel Edwards said on Monday. “But what I can tell you is that we are going to work hard every day to provide as much help as possible.”

The storm has been blamed for at least four deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi, including two people killed Monday night when seven vehicles plunged into a 20-foot-deep hole near Lucedale, Mississippi, where a freeway had collapsed after torrential rain.

On Monday, rescuers aboard boats, helicopters and trucks at high tide brought to safety more than 670 people in Louisiana trapped by the flood waters. 20 other people were rescued in Mississippi. Teams planned to go door-to-door to the worst affected areas to make sure everyone was out safely.

Power teams also rushed to the region. The Louisiana governor said 25,000 utility workers were on the ground in the state to help restore power, and more are underway.

Still, his office called the damage to the power grid “catastrophic,” and electricity officials said it could be weeks before power was restored in some places.

More than a million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were left without power as Ida crossed Sunday with winds reaching 150 mph. The wind speed matched it for the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the continent.

A giant tower that carries key transmission lines across the Mississippi River to the New Orleans area twisted and collapsed in the storm, and the Entergy power company said more than 2,000 miles of Transmission lines were taken out of service along with 216 substations. The storm also flattened utility poles, toppled trees on power lines, and blew up transformers.

In New Orleans, city officials told residents without power that there was no reason to stay or return, at least for a few days.

Pamela Mitchell said she was considering leaving until the power came back on, but her 14-year-old daughter Michelle was determined to stay and decided to clean the fridge and put perishables in a cooler.

Mitchell had already spent a hot and scary night at the house as Ida’s winds howled, and she thought the family could hold out.

“We went there a week ago, with Zeta,” she said, recalling a blackout during the hurricane that hit the city last fall.

Hank Fanberg said his two neighbors gave him access to their generators. He also had a plan for the food: “I have a gas grill and a charcoal grill. “

Some places also face shortages of drinking water. Eighteen water systems were down, affecting more than 312,000 people, and another 14 systems serving 329,000 people were on boil water advisory, the governor said.

Hurricane Ida struck on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, the 2005 storm that slashed New Orleans levees, devastated the city and was responsible for 1,800 deaths.

This time, New Orleans, protected by a major overhaul of its levees since Katrina, escaped the catastrophic flooding that some feared.

In the southwest corner of the Mississippi, entire neighborhoods were surrounded by floodwaters and many roads were impassable. Several tornadoes have been reported, including a suspected tornado in Saraland, Alabama, which tore off part of the roof of a motel and overturned an 18-wheeled vehicle, injuring the driver.

Ida’s remains continued to bring heavy rains and flooding to parts of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys. Flash floods and mudslides were possible around Washington on Thursday and in New England on Friday.

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