New Orleans shows signs of recovery
NEW ORLEANS – Supply trucks are once again delivering beer on Bourbon Street, and the landmark Cafe Du Monde is serving beignets, fried pastries covered with white sugar, even though there aren’t many tourists or locals around to partake of either.
With almost all the power back on in New Orleans nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ida struck, the city is showing signs of making a comeback from the Category 4 storm, which is blamed for more than two dozen deaths in Louisiana. More businesses are opening daily, gasoline is easier to find, and many roads are lined with huge debris piles from cleanup work.
Thousands are still struggling without electricity and water outside the metro area, and officials say oppressive heat is contributing to both health problems and the misery. It could still be weeks before power is restored in some areas, and many residents who evacuated haven’t returned.
“It is not lost on anybody here at the state level and certainly not on our local partners just how many people continue to suffer,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday. “While things are getting better and we can be thankful for that ... this is going to be a very long-term recovery.”
Around New Orleans, residents are seeing signs that life is getting back to normal after Ida. Philip Palumbo, who lives in the French Quarter and works at a bar that remains shuttered, said the lifting of the citywide curfew should help restaurants and bars struggling to reopen get more customers.
“There’s not a lot around yet, but they’ll be back,” he said.
Power crews reached a “major milestone” in the New Orleans area by restoring electricity to the vast majority of customers, Phillip May, chief executive of the state’s largest power provider, Entergy Louisiana, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. About 201,000 of Entergy’s 205,000 customers, or 98%, now have power, the company said, and those that don’t had more severe damage.
More than 220,000 homes and businesses remained without power Friday in southeast Louisiana, according to the state Public Service Commission. And while Baton Rouge and New Orleans were almost completely restored, the four hardest-hit parishes – St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Terrebonne and Lafourche – still had 80% or more of their utility customers without power.
Now that power is mostly restored to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, more crews are heading south to the areas hardest-hit by the storm, May said Friday.
Parts of the state’s health care network, which was slammed with COVID-19 cases even before Ida, are struggling. Executives of Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest care provider, estimate it will take about four weeks to get two of its damaged hospitals fully operational.
Across the system, “heat illness is a big concern,” said Dr. Robert Hart, Ochsner’s chief medical officer. Hart said emergency rooms have also seen several patients stricken by carbon monoxide, a common problem after big storms as people use gas-powered generators, sometimes indoors.